The Annotated "Privateersman"/Chapter XVII
Having eaten some venison, and drunk out of the calabash, the captain painted me black, with here and there a line of red and white on the face and shoulders. I performed the same duty towards him, and we then resumed our paddles, and pushed in a slanting direction for the shore. The tide now ran down against us, and we could hardly stem it, and finding ourselves opposite a beach clear of trees for a quarter of a mile, we agreed to run on shore to look for a large stone. We soon found one which answered our purpose, and, paddling off again to three or four hundred yards, we made the stone fast to the bow-rope of our boat, and anchored the canoe with it. Having succeeded in this, we got out the fishing-lines, and, with a piece of raw meat as a bait, we soon had several fish in the canoe; after which we put on no more baits, but pretended to fish till the tide slacked, when we lifted our anchor and recommenced our paddling to the northward.
At night we landed on a rock, close to the beach, having well reconnoitred before it was dark, to see if there were any canoes or Indians to be seen on the shore; and thus we continued for five days, during which we passed the mouths of one or two rivers, and had gained, as we supposed, more that 150 miles along the coast, but how much to the northward we could not tell, as we followed the windings of the shore. We were twice obliged to land to obtain water, but we always did so in the daytime, having taken the precaution to black the whole of our bodies and take off our trousers before we landed. Our deer’s flesh was all gone, and we continued to live on fish, cooking as much as we could at one time. The collecting fire-wood was the great risk which we ran; for we were then obliged to land where there was wood. It was on the sixth day that we were first in danger. As we rounded a point, we fell in with another canoe with six or seven people in it. They were not more than 800 yards off when we first saw them. The Indians stood up in the canoe, looked at us very earnestly, and then, perceiving that we were not of their tribe, I presume, pulled towards us. We immediately turned and pulled away. They had been fishing, and two of them were pulling up the lines, while the others paddled, which gave us a little advantage; but they had three paddles and we had only two. They shouted and paddled with all their might, but they gained little, as they were seven in the canoe, five men and two women, and deep in consequence. As they gained slowly upon us, notwithstanding all our exertions, the Portuguese said to me, “They have no weapons in the boat, I should think; if they had, they would use them, for we are within bow-shot. Can you use a bow and arrow?”
“I could once,” replied I, “use it very fairly;” for when I was captive with Whyna, she would often practise the bow and arrow with me, and I became somewhat expert before I left her.
“Well, then,” said he, “let me paddle on, and do you put an arrow in the bow and threaten them, at all events.”
I did so, and stood up, taking aim as if about to shoot, at which they ceased paddling, and after talking a little they turned the head of their canoe round, and made for the shore. We proceeded, as may be imagined, with all diligence. I laid down my bow and arrows and resumed my paddle, and in an hour we could no longer see our late pursuers. We continued our voyage, and for three days met with no further adventures, when about noon, on the fourth day, the sky became overcast, and there was every prospect of rough weather. Before night the wind and sea rose, and it was no longer possible for us to keep along the coast, which already was covered with breakers.
We had therefore no remedy but to make for the shore and haul up the canoe, for we could not perceive any inlet which might shelter us. It was quite dark when we dashed the canoe through the breakers and landed. We hauled her up some distance, as there was every appearance of worse weather, and sheltered ourselves under the lee of a high rock. The wind now blew fiercely, and rain descended in torrents. We tried to light a fire to warm ourselves, but could not succeed, so we lay down on one bear-skin, and covered ourselves with the others, waiting impatiently for daylight. When the day dawned the weather was worse than ever. We now looked out for a better place of concealment for ourselves and our canoe, and found one at about fifty yards’ distance: between two high rocks there was a narrow cleft or passage, which was large enough for us and for the canoe, and this hid us both from the storm and from the sea. Into this cleft we hauled our canoe and withdrew ourselves, making a meal off some fish we roasted on the embers. We remained there for two days, when the weather moderated, but the sea was still too rough for us to launch the canoe; so we decided upon remaining one day more, although our provisions were all gone and our calabashes quite empty. On the third day, to our great surprise and alarm, we heard the report of a musket not far from us. From this we knew that we could not be very far from the English settlements, for it was only the Indians near to the settlements who had obtained muskets. But whether it was an Indian or a white man who fired we could not, of course, tell. I recollected that, in the last advices we had had from James Town, our factors had stated that there was a cruel war carried on between the Indians and the settlers, and that the Indians had ravaged the plantations; but that was two years ago, and how it might be now it was impossible to tell. A second report of a musket still nearer induced me to creep along by the side of the rock, and look out to see if any one was near. To my great alarm, I perceived five Indians with muskets not a hundred yards off. I drew back, as I hoped, unperceived, but the eye of an Indian was too keen. They had discovered me; and whilst I was relating to the Portuguese captain what I had seen, they were suddenly upon us. We had no time to make resistance, even if we were inclined so to do; we therefore sat still. They came up and looked at us. The wet had washed off a great portion of the paint upon my back and shoulders. One of the Indians touched me on the shoulder, and said, “Ugh!—white man paint like Indian.” They then examined the canoe and its contents, and, having spoken a few words to each other, apparently relating to the canoe, they put a thong of leather round each of our arms, and, making a motion for us to follow them, they led us away.
“We’ve done our best, and could do no more,” said the Portuguese; “I feel that it’s all over with me now, and I shall soon sleep in the bosom of Jesus.”
My heart was too full to make any reply. The Indians led on, and I followed in silence.
We passed through the woods, which appeared to be interminable, till the night closed in, and then the Indians halted, and while one remained as guard over us the others collected wood for a fire. They had some provisions, but offered none to us. After an hour they lay down to sleep round the fire, placing me and the Portuguese captain next to the fire, and lying outside of us. They were soon fast asleep, or appeared to be, when I said to the captain, “Have you your knife? For if they remain asleep, let us wait an hour or so, and if you can cut the leather thong which the Indian holds in his hand, and then watch your opportunity, I will do the same, and we may escape.”
“I have my knife, but my Indian is not asleep,” replied he; “I will wait till he is.”
“What signal shall we make if we succeed?” said I.
“When you are ready, lift your arm up,—I shall understand,—and if I am ready I will do the same. Agreed; and now let us be quiet, for depend upon it our conversation has roused them all.”
We then composed ourselves, as if to sleep, and remained in that way for more than an hour, by which time we were convinced that our captors were slumbering. I then drew out my knife, for the Indians had not attempted to rifle us, and cut the thong which was round my arm, without awaking the Indian who had the other end in his hand. I remained quiet for a quarter of an hour, when the Portuguese lifted up his arm as a signal that he was free. I listened attentively, and, being certain that the Indians were asleep, I lifted up my arm also.
The Portuguese then rose up carefully, and without noise, stepping past the bodies of the Indians, till he was clear of the circle. I did the same, and pointed to the muskets, which lay on the grass by the Indians. He took one up and I another and we retreated to a short distance.
“We must have the other muskets,” said I; “stay where you are.”
I advanced cautiously and took up the other three muskets, and was retreating with them, when one of the Indians turned round as if awaking. I ran past, the Portuguese, and making a sign for him to follow me we retreated a few yards into the wood, where we could watch the Indians without being seen ourselves. The Portuguese motioned to be off but I detained him, and I was right. The Indian roused up and sat upon his haunches; perceiving that we had escaped, he waked up the others. They started on their feet, and looking round found that the muskets were all gone; and then they held a consultation. At last they appeared to have made up their minds to follow, and, if possible, recapture us, for they went back in the direction of the sea.
“Now, then, we must hide three of the muskets,” said I, in a whisper, “and keep the others to defend ourselves.”
We examined and found that they were all loaded, and the Portuguese then said to me, “There are five of them. If they meet with us, and we discharge two muskets and we do not kill, we shall be at their mercy. If we do kill, still there will be three against two; we had better carry all the muskets. Do you take two, and I will take three.”
As I thought he was right, I consented, and we now went the same path towards the sea which the Indians had done before us in pursuit of us. We walked fast, as we knew the Indians would do the same, and they had the start of us, so that we were not likely to come up with them. It was severe work, but we did not slacken our pace, and before dawn the sea was quite visible through the branches of the trees, for we had arrived at the outskirts of the wood.
As soon as we had gained the beach, which was 500 yards wide, we looked round to see if we could perceive the Indians, but we could observe nobody.
“Let us, while it is yet dark, go round so as to get on the opposite side of the rocks where we were concealed,” said the Portuguese. “If they are there, we shall take them by surprise.”
Keeping just within the wood, we walked half a mile to the southward, and then emerged just as the day was breaking, and made for the rocks. As soon as we arrived, we examined very cautiously before we entered the cleft, but there was nobody there, and the canoe was safe.
“They are not here,” said I; “where can they be?”
“They cannot be far off,” said the Portuguese; “I suspect they are hidden somewhere, and intend to surprise us while we are launching our canoe, and when our muskets will be out of our hands.”
“I agree with you; let us now wait at some little distance from the rocks till broad daylight,—we shall then be secure from surprise.”
We did so, and when the sun rose we looked well round, but could see nobody. We entered the cleft, and were about to lay down the muskets, and lay hold of the canoe, when I perceived a small piece of rock to drop down. This caused me immediately to suspect the truth, and I cried to the Portuguese to come back with me. He did so, and I told him that I was certain that the Indians had climbed the rock, and were lying down on the top of it, ready to pounce upon us.
“Depend upon it they must be there,” said he, when I mentioned the falling piece of rock; “let us walk round and see if we can discover them.”
We did so, but they were too well concealed.
“But what must be done now?” said he. “It is useless our attempting to clamber to the top of the rock, for no one could do it with a musket in his hand.”
“No,” replied I, “that is certain; and if we attempt to bring the canoe out of the cleft, they may drop down upon us.”
“I think,” said he, “that if we were to go in and take the tow-rope in our hands, which is several yards long, we might haul out the canoe by it, and when once it is clear of the cleft they cannot move without our seeing them.”
“We will try, at all events,” replied I. “Do you stay on the watch while I get hold of the tow-rope and bring it out.”
The Indians did not expect this manoeuvre, it was clear. Still keeping the muskets in our possession, the butts on the sand, and the muzzles resting on our shoulders, we laid hold of the tow-rope, and by great exertion hauled the canoe several yards away from between the two rocks. We then paused for breath after a minute or two, with our eyes fixed upon the top of the rock to see if they moved, and then we hauled it at least a hundred yards further on, when for the first time I perceived that the bow and arrows were not in the canoe, and that they must have been taken by the Indians.
“Then we must haul again,” said the Portuguese, when I stated this to him, “till we are out of bow-shot. Let us put the muskets into the canoe, and drag it as fast as we can.”
We did so, and gained another hundred yards before we stopped, when an arrow was discharged from the summit of the rock, and buried itself in the sand close to my feet.
“Haul again,” said the Portuguese, “we are not out of shot yet.”
Again we exerted ourselves, and gained another hundred yards, during which two more arrows were discharged, and one of them went through the left arm of my comrade; but as it was through the fleshy part, and did not touch the bone, it did not disable him. A third arrow was sent after us, but did not reach us, and we knew that we were out of distance.
“Cut the shaft of the arrow, and draw it through the arm,” said the Portuguese.
“Not now,” said I; “they will perceive me doing so, and will think that you are disabled. That may induce them to rush upon us, thinking they have only one man to deal with.”
“Well, it’s no great matter,” replied he; “we must now drag our canoe down to the water and launch her, if they will let us. We have outwitted them so far.”
We now turned the head of the canoe towards the sea, and slowly dragged her down; our eyes, as may be supposed, constantly kept upon the rock, to see if the Indians would move, but they did not. They perhaps felt that they had no chance with us, having all the fire-arms and an open beach in our favour. We launched our canoe without further interruption on their part, and in a few minutes, taking care to be out of arrow distance, we passed the rock with our head to the northward. When about two miles off, we perceived the Indians to descend from the rock and walk away into the woods.
“Let us praise God for this miraculous escape,” said I to the Portuguese.
“I do; and the holy patron saint who has preserved me,” replied the Portuguese captain; “but I am still heavy at heart. I feel that we have escaped only to come into more strange and fresh calamity. I shall never get back to Lisbon,—that I feel convinced of.”
I tried all I could to encourage him, but it was of no avail, he told me that the presentiment was too strong, and could not be overcome by any argument. Indeed, he appeared to have allowed the idea so to have taken possession of his mind, that his reason became enervated; and, having heard how the Indians burnt their prisoners, he talked about martyrdom at the stake, and rising up to heaven in great glory, there to be received by the whole body of saints and legions of angels.
“What is the use of our thus labouring at the paddle?” said he; “why not at once let us go ashore and receive the crown of martyrdom? I am ready; for I long for the hour, and shall rejoice.”
I said all I could to keep him quiet, but it was useless; and such was his insanity, that he gradually neared the shore by steering against me with his paddle, so that I could not prevent it. I had drawn the shaft of the arrow through his arm, and he appeared to feel no pain. I expostulated with him at his keeping the canoe so near the shore, but he smiled and gave no reply.
We had the stream against us and made but little way, and it vexed me very much to hear him talk so loud as he did, as the Indians must have heard him, and I thought would follow us along the coast; but he ransacked the whole book of martyrs, telling me how one had his body sawn in two, another was pinched to death; this one burnt, that tortured; every variety of death he entered upon during the whole of that day without ceasing.
I ascribed much of this to the pain arising from the wounded arm, notwithstanding which he paddled with as much vigour as ever. As the night came on I entreated him to hold his tongue, but it was in vain, and I felt assured that his reason was quite gone. He continued to talk loud and rave without intermission, and I now considered our fate as sealed. We had no water in the boat or provisions of any kind, and I proposed that we should heave-to and catch some fish, telling him that if he talked we should scare them away.
This made him quiet for a time, but as soon as we had hooked four or five fish, he again commenced his history of the glorious martyrs. I prayed him to be silent, for a short time at least, and he was so for about four or five minutes, when he would break out into some ejaculation, which I immediately stopped. At last he could talk no more for want of water; his lips were glued together, and so were mine. Nevertheless, I continued paddling for two hours more, when I found by the canoe grounding that he had steered her on the beach. There was no help for it. We landed and went in search of water, which we found about half of a mile from where our canoe was beached.
We drank heartily, filled the calabash, and were returning to the canoe, when he again commenced talking as loud as ever. I was in great anger, but I put my hand before his mouth, beseeching him in a whisper to be quiet. As we were doing this, we were suddenly sprung upon and seized by several Indians, and in a minute were bound hands and feet.
“I knew it,” cried the Portuguese; “I knew it would be so. Well, I am prepared; are not you, my good friend?”
I made no reply. I felt that in his madness he had sacrificed his own life and mine also; but it was the will of Heaven. The Indians left two to guard us, and went down to the canoe, returning with their muskets. I soon perceived that they were the same whom we had escaped from the night before, and the one who had spoken a little English when we were first captured, now came to me and said, “White man paint like Indian, steal gun—ugh.”
When the Indians had returned from the canoe, our feet were unbound, and we were again led away by the leather thong which was fast to our arms. The Portuguese now began to find his tongue again, and talked incessantly, the Indians not checking him; from which it was evident that they were on their own domains. After four hours’ walking they kindled a fire, and went to repose as before: but this time they took our knives from us, and bound our legs so tight that they gave us much pain. I did not expostulate as I knew it was useless. My companion, as the thong entered into his flesh, seemed pleased, saying, “Now my martyrdom is commencing.”
Alas! Poor man—but I will not anticipate. We travelled three days, during which we were supplied with a small portion of parched Indian corn every day, just sufficient for our sustenance, and no more. On the fourth morning the Indians, after an hour’s travelling, set up some shrill and barbarous cries which I afterwards discovered was their war-whoop. These cries were replied to by others at a distance, and in about a quarter of an hour afterwards we found ourselves close to a number of wigwams, as they are termed, (the Indian houses,) and soon surrounded by a large party of men, women, and children, who greeted us with taunts and menaces.
We were led into a larger wigwam than the others, where we found several Indians of grave aspect assembled, and a man who could speak English was ordered in as interpreter, he asked us where we came from in the canoe. I replied, that we came from the south, but we had been wrecked in a big ship, and had taken the canoe, which we found on the beach. They asked no more questions. We were led out, and in about an hour afterwards the Indians who had spoken English to us when we were captured, came up with two others and painted us black, saying, “The white men like paint. Black paint good.”
I did not know till afterwards that this painting black was a sign that we were condemned to death, but so it was. They took off our trousers, the only garment we had on, and left us naked. To my surprise, they did not take the diamond which was sewed up in leather from off my neck; but, as I learnt subsequently, the Indians are much given to conjurors and charms, wearing many round their own necks and about their persons, and they respect the charms that their enemies wear, indeed are afraid of them, lest they should be harmed by having them in their possession. We remained in a wigwam during that day, with guards over us. The following day we were led out and cast loose, and we found all the Indians, women and children, ranged in two lines, each holding in their hands a club or stick, or rod of some description or another.
We were led to the end of the row, and looked about us in amazement. They made signs to us which we did not understand, and while we were remaining in doubt as to what was to be our fate, an old woman, who had been menacing and grinning at me for some time, and who was the most hideous animal that I ever beheld in the shape of a woman, thrust a straw into my eye, giving me most excruciating agony. I was so carried away by rage and pain, that I saluted her with a kick in the stomach, which laid her doubled up on the ground, expecting to be scalped for so doing the next moment. On the contrary, the Indians laughed, while some of the other women dragged her away.
At last the interpreter came, and from him we learnt that we had to run the gauntlet, and that, as soon as we gained the large lodge where we had been examined by the old Indians on the day previous, we were safe, and that we must run for that as fast as we could. The Portuguese, who was still as mad as ever, was then pushed on; he would not run, but walked glorying in the blows, which showered down upon him like hail; and, moreover, he prevented me from running for some time, till I got past him. I had been cruelly punished, and was mad with pain, when I perceived a tall, gaunt Indian waiting for me with a heavy club. Careless of life or consequences, I rushed past him, and as I passed I threw out my fist with such impetus, that, hitting him under the right ear, he fell senseless, and it appears that he never rose again, for the blow killed him; after which I at last gained the council-house, and was soon afterwards followed by my companion, who was streaming with blood. We were then led away, and tied by our necks to two stakes about twenty yards apart, and there we remained for the night.
The Portuguese passed the night in singing; I passed it in silence and prayer. I felt convinced that we were to die, and I feared that it would be by fire or torture, for I had heard something of the manners and customs of these Indians. I made my peace with God as well as a poor sinner could, prayed for mercy through Jesus Christ, sighed my adieu to Amy, and made up my mind to die.
Early the next morning the Indians brought fire-wood, and placed it in bundles round the stakes, at a distance of about fourteen yards from the centre. They then went to the Portuguese, tied his hands behind him, and exchanged the rope by which he had been fastened for a much stronger one, one end of which they fastened to his wrists behind him, and the other to the stake. As they left me as I was before, it was plain that the Portuguese was to suffer first. They then set fire to the piles of wood which were round the stake, which were too far from him to burn him, and I could not imagine what they intended to do, but you may conceive that I was in a state of awful suspense and anxiety, as I was well convinced that his fate, whatever it might be, would be my own.
During these appalling preparations, the Portuguese appeared as if he really enjoyed the scene.
“Now, my good friend,” said he to me, “you shall see how I can suffer for the true faith. Even a heretic like you shall be converted by my example, and I shall ascend to heaven with you in my arms. Come on, ye fiends; come on, ye heathens, and see how a Christian can suffer.”
Much as I felt for him and for myself, I could not lament that his reason had left him, as I thought his sufferings would be less; but his exclamations were soon drowned by a loud yell from the Indians, who all rushed upon my unfortunate companion.
For a moment or two they were crowded so thick round him that I could not perceive what they were doing, but after that they separated, and I beheld him bleeding profusely, his ears and nose having been cut off and a broken iron ramrod passed through both cheeks. And now a scene took place, at the remembrance of which, even now, my blood curdles. Some caught up the burning sticks and applied them to his flesh, others stuck him full of small splints, the ends of which they lighted. The Indian warriors shot at him with muskets loaded with powder only, so as to burn him terribly on every part of the body. The women took up handfuls of lighted ashes and showered them down on him, so that the ground he trod upon was a mass of burning embers, and he walked upon fire.
Red-hot irons were now brought forward, and his body seared in all parts, his tormentors seeking out where they could give him the most pain. At last one applied the hot iron to his eyes, and burnt them out. Imagine my feelings at this horrid scene—imagine the knowledge that this was to be also my fate in a short time, but what is more strange to tell, imagine, Madam, my companion not only deriding his torturers, but not flinching from the torture; on the contrary, praising God for his goodness in thus allowing him to be a martyr for the true faith, offering his body to their inflictions, and shouting manfully; but such was the behaviour of my insane friend, and this behaviour appeared to give great satisfaction to the Indians.
For nearly two hours did this torture continue, his body was black and bloody all over, and the smell of the burning flesh was horrible; but by this time it appeared as if he was much exhausted, and, indeed, appeared to be almost insensible to pain. He walked round the stake as before upon the burning coals, but appeared not to know when further torture was applied to him or not. He now sang hymns in Portuguese in a low voice, for he was much exhausted. Soon afterwards he staggered and fell down with his face upon the burning embers; but even the flesh of his face grilling, as it were, appeared to have no effect upon him. An Indian then went up to him, and with his knife cut a circle round his head, and tore off the whole scalp, flesh and hair together, and when he had done this the old woman whom I had saluted with a kick before I ran the gauntlet, and who had his ears hanging on her neck to a string, lifted up a handful of burning coals, and put them upon his bleeding head.
This seemed to rouse him. He lifted up his head, but his features were no longer to be distinguished, as his face was burnt to a black coal, and he said, “Take me, ye holy saints,—Angels, receive me,” and, to my great astonishment, he again rose on his legs, and tottered round and round for a few minutes. At last he sank down, with his back against the stake, and one of the Indians cleaved his brain with his tomahawk; and thus ended the life and the misery of my unfortunate companion—and it was now my turn.
“Well,” thought I, “it is but two hours of suffering, and then I shall be beyond their malice. May God have mercy upon my soul.”
The same preparations were now made for me. I was fastened with the stout rope, and my arms tied behind me, the wood was fired, and one of the chiefs was haranguing the Indians. He finished, the low yell was given, when the old woman whom I had before mentioned, ran up to me, and, saying something which I could not understand, put her hand upon me.
When she did this the other Indians, who were about to rush on me, drew back with signs of disappointment on many of their wild countenances. The chiefs then went into the council-house, leaving me tied where I was, and the wood burning around me, the mass of Indians standing about as if waiting the decision of the chiefs. After a time three Indians, one of whom was the interpreter, came up to me, and, kicking aside the burning poles, cast me loose.
I asked the interpreter what he was about to do. He replied, “You kill Indian here, (pointing to his own ear,) you kill him dead. Squaw lose husband—want another—take you—stead of him.”
They led me to the council-house before the chiefs. The old woman whom I had kicked was there. It was her husband that I had killed by the blow behind the ear, and she had claimed me in his stead, and, according to the custom of the country, her claim was allowed, and I was made over to her, and received into the tribe. Strange custom for a woman to marry the murderer of her husband, but still such it was, and thus did I find myself freed from the stake when I least expected it. The principal chief made me a speech, which was interpreted, in which he told me that I was now the husband of Manou, and was one of their own tribe; that I must be strong in war, and must hunt and procure venison for my family.
They then washed off the black paint, and after a few more speeches and ceremonies I was handed over to the hideous old hag, whose neck was still decorated with the two ears of my companion. To say that I would have preferred the torture would be saying too much, but that I loathed the creature to excess was certain. However, I said nothing, but allowed her to take me by the hand and lead me to her wigwam. As soon as we were in she brought me some venison, which I ate greedily, for I had had nothing for thirty-six hours. She then offered me the leggings, as they call them, which the Indians wear, and the other portions of the Indian dress, which probably belonged to her late husband. I put them on, as I was glad to cover my nakedness, and, worn out with walking and exertion, I first thanked God for my miraculous preservation, and then lay down and fell into a deep sleep.
It was not until the next day that I awoke, and I then perceived the old woman rubbing oil upon the deep cuts made in my wrists and shoulders by the leather thongs. She again set meat before me, and I ate heartily, but I looked upon her with abhorrence, and when she attempted to fondle me I turned away and spit with disgust, at which she retired, grumbling. I now had leisure to reflect. I passed over with a shudder the scenes that had passed, and again returned thanks to God for my deliverance. I called to mind how often I had been preserved and delivered. From my bondage in Africa, from my imprisonment in the Tower, from my hopeless slavery in the mines, from our wreck on the island, and now, after passing through such dangers, from an almost certain cruel death by torture! Truly did I feel how grateful I ought to be for that Providence which had often preserved me, and that my only reliance in future must be in its gracious protection.
But here I was, married to a woman I detested, and living with barbarians; and I said to myself, “That kind Heaven which has already done so much for me will, in its own good time, also release me from this thraldom. In the mean while let me not murmur, but be thankful.” My squaw, as they call their wives among the Indians, now came up to me and offered to paint me, and I thought it advisable that she should, as I felt that the sooner I conformed myself to their customs the more chance I had of making my escape, which I was resolved to do the first opportunity.
As soon as she had completed my toilet I walked out of the wigwam, that I might look about me and be seen. The Indians, who were sauntering about, met me with a friendly “Ugh,” which appeared a favourite monosyllable with them. At last I met with the interpreter, and began to converse with him. I asked what nation I was now belonging to, and he said the Massowomicks. I asked how large their country was, and he told me much which I could not understand, except that it appeared to me a very powerful nation.
I was very careful of mentioning the English, or anything about their settlement, although I was anxious to know where it was; but I asked him whether they were at war with any other nation. He said, “No, they had been at war with other tribes, but that they had all made peace that they might join against the white man, who had taken their land.”
“I am an Indian now,” said I.
“Yes, and you will forget the white man,” said he. “You have now red blood in your veins. You marry Indian wife, you all the same as one Indian.”
I said, “War Indian beat his wife, suppose she talk too much?”
“Plenty talk, plenty beat,” said he.
“Suppose my wife talk too much and I beat her, what Indian people say?”
“Say good. Suppose wife too old, you take two wife, one more young.”
I was very much pleased with this conversation; not that I had the slightest idea of profiting by his information by taking another wife, but I felt such a disgust at my present one, and had already seen what a fury she could be, that I was resolved, if necessary, to show her that I was master, for I felt certain that if I did not, she would soon attempt to master me and so it turned out.
On the third day she took down a bow and arrows and made a sign to me to go out, and, I presumed, bring back food; and as there was nothing in the house I thought the request reasonable. I therefore went out of the wigwam and found that many of the young men were going out on a hunting-party, and that I was to join them. We set off and travelled for six hours before we came to the hunting-ground, and as the deer passed me I thought of Whyna and my hunting excursions with her. I was, however, fortunate, and killed two deer, much to the surprise of the Indians, who thought a white man could not use a bow and arrows, and I rose very much in their estimation in consequence. The deer was cut up, and we hung upon branches what we could not carry.
We did not go home that night, but feasted over a large fire. The next morning we all carried home our loads, and mine was as large as any of the others, if not larger; neither did I flag on the way, for I was naturally very strong and active, and had lately been inured to fatigue. When we arrived, the squaws and men among the others were despatched for the remainder of the venison. I now went out every day by myself and practised with my bow, till I had become more expert, for I wanted practice. I had no musket, but I had a tomahawk and a long knife. I began to pick up a few words of the language, and by means of the interpreter I gained them very fast. Before I had been three months with the Indians I had acquired their confidence and respect. They found that I was expert, and able to gain my own livelihood, and I may add that before I had been three months I had also mastered my wife. When she found that I would not submit to her caresses, she was very indignant and very violent, but I immediately knocked her down, and beat her unmercifully. This brought her to her senses, and after that I treated her as my slave with great rigour, and as she was a notorious scold the Indians liked me all the better for it.
You may think that this was not fair treatment towards a woman who had saved my life; but she only saved it for her own purposes, and would have worn my ears, as well as my companion’s, if I had not killed her husband. The fact is, I had no alternative; I must have either treated her kindly and submitted to her nauseous endearments, or have kept her at a respectful distance by severity, and I hardly need say that I preferred the latter. So far as her choice of a husband was concerned, she made a bad one, for she received nothing but blows and bad usage. I had one day driven my wife out of the wigwam in consequence of her presuming to “talk too much,” as the Indian said, when the interpreter told me that one of the chiefs was willing that I should marry his daughter, polygamy being one of their customs.
I was very much annoyed at this, for I knew the young girl very well: she was very graceful and very pretty; and I felt that my fidelity to Amy would be in great danger if the marriage was to take place; and if proposed, I dared not refuse so great a distinction.
I replied that I was fortunate, but that I feared my present wife would make her very unhappy, as she wanted to be the chief woman of the wigwam, and when I was away I could not tell what the old woman might do to her, and the conversation was dropped.
This little Indian had, before this, shown me as much favour as an Indian girl ever ventures to show, sufficient, at all events, to satisfy me that I was not disagreeable to her, and what the interpreter had said made me very uncomfortable. However, I consoled myself with the recollection that if I were compelled to marry this girl, it would be an involuntary infidelity on my part, and on that account might well be excused; for the hope of again rejoining Amy never left me at any time.
One day I went out in search of deer, and was led away from my companions after a buck which I had wounded and attempted to overtake. They saw me in chase of my quarry, and left me in pursuit. I followed for several hours, continually coming up with it and as continually losing it again. At last, I heard the report of a musket close to where the deer was last seen by me, and I thought that some Indian had shot it. I walked forward, however, very cautiously, and perceived a white man standing by the animal, which lay at his feet. I started back, for I did not know whether I had fallen in with a friend or a foe; but as I knew that he had not had time to reload his musket, I hallooed to him, concealing myself at the same time behind a tree.
“Is that you, Evans?” said the man in reply.
“No,” said I, “it is an Englishman.”
“Well, show yourself, then,” said he.
“I am dressed as an Indian,” replied I; “I was taken by the Indians.”
“Well, come along,” said the man, who was attired as a seafaring man.
I came from behind the tree, and when he saw me he snatched up his musket.
“Don’t be afraid,” said I.
“Afraid!” said he; “I should like to see what I am afraid of; but I’ll be on my guard.”
“That’s right,” I replied.
I then told him that I had been taken by the Indians, and they saved my life because one of their women chose me as her husband, and that I was anxious to escape from them.
“Well,” said he, “I am on board of a schooner at anchor down below in the river. There are a few of us come on shore to get some venison, and I have lost my comrades; but I had no idea that the Indians were down here so close to the English settlements.”
“How close are we, then?” said I; “for I know not where I am. This is certainly not our usual hunting-ground, for I have been led many miles from it, in pursuit of the animal you have just shot.”
“Well, I thought so; for I have been on shore here more than once, and I have never met with an Indian. You ask how far you are from the settlement; that I can hardly tell you, because the settlers have spread out so far; but you are about forty or fifty miles from James Town.”
“And what river, then, is your schooner at anchor in?”
“I don’t know the name,” replied the man; “I’m not sure that it has a name. We come here for wood and water, because it is quiet, not inhabited, and no questions asked.”
“What are you, then?” inquired I.
“Why, to tell you the truth, we are what are called ‘Jolly Rovers;’ and if you have a mind to come on board, we can find a berth for you, I dare say.”
“Many thanks,” replied I; “but I am not sufficiently fond of the sea, and I should be of no use,” (for by this term of Jolly Rover I knew that they were pirates).
“That’s as you please,” replied he; “no harm’s done.”
“No,” replied I; “and I thank you for your kind offer, but I cannot live long on board of a vessel. Will you now tell me which is the right track to the English plantations?”
“Why,” said he, “they bear right out in that direction; and I dare say, if you travel five or six leagues, you will fall aboard of some plantation or another—right in that quarter; follow your nose, old fellow, and you can’t go wrong.”
“Many thanks,” I replied; “am I likely to meet your companions?—they may take me for an Indian.”
“Not in that direction,” replied he; “they were astern of me a long way.”
“Farewell, then, and many thanks,” I replied.
“Good-bye, old fellow; and the sooner you rub off that paint, the sooner you’ll look like a Christian,” said the careless rover, as I walked away.
“No bad advice,” I thought, for I was now determined to make for the English settlements as fast as I could, “and I will do so when I once see an English habitation, but not before; I may fall in with Indians yet.”
I then set off as fast as I could, and being now inured to running for a long time without stopping, I left the rover a long way behind me in a very short time. I continued my speed till it was dark, when I heard the barking of a dog, which I knew was English, for the Indian dogs do not bark. I then proceeded cautiously and in the direction where I heard the dog bark, and arrived in a quarter of an hour to a cleared ground, with a rail fence round it.
“Thank God!” I cried, “that I am at last among my own countrymen.”
I considered, however, that it would not be prudent to show myself, especially in my Indian paint, at such a time of night, and I therefore sat down under the lee-side of a large tree, and remained there till morning. I then looked about for water, and having found a running stream I washed off my paint, and appeared what I really was, a white man in an Indian dress. I then went up again to the clearing, and looked for the habitation, which I discovered on the top of a hill, about four hundred yards off. The trees were cleared away for about three hundred yards all round it. It was built of heavy logs, let into one another, with one window only, and that very small. The door was still shut. I walked up to it, and tapped at the door.
“Who’s there?” replied a hoarse voice.
“An Englishman, and a stranger,” I replied. “I have just escaped from the Indians.”
“We’ll see what you are in a very short time,” replied the voice. “James, get me my gun.”
In a minute the door opened, and I beheld a woman more than six feet high, of gaunt appearance and large dimensions: I thought that I had never seen such a masculine creature before. It was her voice which I had heard. Two men were seated by the fire-place.
“Who are you?” said she, with the musket ready for the present.
I told her in a few words.
“Show me the palm of your hand—turn it up at once.”
I did so, without the least idea of the reason for the demand; but I afterwards discovered that it was to ascertain whether I was one of those who had been transported to the settlement, as they all had the letter R branded on them.
“Oh, you’re not a gaol-bird, then, I see: you may come in; but you’ll give me that bow and arrows if you please.”
“Certainly,” replied I, “if you wish it.”
“Why, there’s nothing like making sure in this world; and although you look a very peaceable, good-looking sort of personage, notwithstanding your Indian set-out, still I’ve known just as amiable people as you, in appearance, very mischievous at times. Now come in, and let us hear what you have to say for yourself. Jeykell, get some more wood.”
One man went out to obey her orders; the other sat by the fire with his musket between his knees. I sat down by the fire, at the request of the woman, who had seated herself by the side of the man, and then, on her repeating her question, I gave her a narrative of my adventures, from the time that I left Rio.
“Well,” says she, “we seldom hear stories like them; it’s all the world like a book; and pray what’s that thing (pointing to the diamond in its case) you have hanging to your neck there? You have left that out in your history.”
“That’s a charm given me by my Indian wife, to preserve me from disasters from wild animals; no panther, wolf, or bear will ever attack me.”
“Well,” said she, “if so be it has that power, all I can say is, it’s not a bad charm to wear in these parts, for there are animals enough in the woods in summer, and round the house all night in winter; but I don’t believe a bit in the charm, and that’s the truth; however, if it does no good, it can’t do no harm, so you may keep it on, and welcome.”
“May I ask how far it is to James Town?” said I. “What, going to James Town already? I suppose you expect to be there to-night?”
“Not exactly, my good woman,” replied I. “I must trespass upon your kindness to give me something to eat, for I am hungry.”
“Good woman! Bah! And pray how dare you call me good woman? Call me mistress, if you want anything.”
“I beg your pardon,” said I. “Well, then, mistress; will you give me something to eat?”
“Yes, I will. James, fetch the meal-cake and a bit of salt pork, and give him to eat, while I call the cows from the bush.”
The mistress, as I shall in future call her, then put down her musket and left the cabin. During her absence I entered into conversation with the man called James, for the other had gone out. To my inquiry how far it was to James Town, he replied that he really did not know; that he was sent out a convict, and sold for ten years to the husband of the mistress, who had died two years ago; that this man had a small vessel, in which he went to James Town by water, and that he had returned with him in his vessel; that the distance by water he considered about one hundred and fifty miles, but by land it was not half that distance; that he did not know the way, nor did he believe that there was any road as yet made to James Town, as this plantation was quite by itself, and a long way from any other. He understood that the nearest plantation was twenty miles off, and he knew there was no road to it, as no one ever went or came except by water.
“But,” said I, “are not the settlers at war with the Indian tribes that surround them?”
“Yes; and have been now for three or four years; and the Indians have done great mischief to the plantations, and killed a great many people, but the settlers have punished them severely.”
“Then how is it that this plantation, which is so solitary, has not been attacked?”
“Because the mistress’s husband was a great friend of the Indians, and, it is said, used to bring them cargoes of muskets and ammunition from James Town, contrary to all law and regulation. But if he was friendly with them, the mistress is not; for she has quarrelled with the principal chief, and I should not be surprised if we were attacked some day, and all scalped.”
“And what does the mistress say to that?”
“Oh, she don’t care; she’d fight a hundred Indians, or white men either. I never saw such a creature—she’s afraid of nothing.”
“Who is the other man I saw here?”
“Oh, he’s another like myself. There were three of us, but one was drowned by falling overboard from the sloop.”
“Well, but my good fellow, how shall I get to James Town?”
“I’m sure I can’t tell; but my idea is that you will never get there unless mistress chooses.”
“Why, surely she won’t detain me by force?”
“Won’t she?—you don’t know her. Why she’d stop an army,” replied the man. “I don’t think that she will let you go—I don’t know; but that’s my opinion. She wants another hand.”
“What, do you mean to say that she’ll make me work?”
“I mean to say that, according to the laws of the settlement, she has a right to detain you. Any person found roving here, who cannot give a satisfactory account of himself, may be detained till something is heard about him; for he may be a runaway convict, or a runaway apprentice, which is much the same, after all. Now, she may say that your account of yourself is not satisfactory, and therefore she detained you; and if you won’t work, she won’t give you to eat; so there you are.”
“Well, we will see if she is able.”
“Able! If you mean strong enough, why she’d take you up with one hand; and she is as resolute and severe as she is strong. I had rather have to deal with three men, and that’s the truth.”
“What’s the truth, James?” cried the mistress, coming in at the door. “Let’s hear the truth from your lips, it will be something new.”
“I said that I was sent here for finding a pocket-book, mistress; that’s all.”
“Yes; but you did not tell him where you found it—at the bottom of a gentleman’s coat-pocket, you know. You can only tell the truth by halves yet, I see.”
Wishing to ascertain how far the man’s suspicions were correct, I said to her:
“I have good friends in James Town: if I were once there I could procure money and anything else to any amount that I required.”
“Well,” says she, “you may have; but I’m afraid that the post don’t go out to-day. One would think, after all your wanderings and difficulties, that you’d be glad to be quiet a little, and remain here; so we’ll talk about James Town some time about next spring.”
“Indeed, mistress, I hope you will not detain me here. I can pay you handsomely, on my arrival at James Town, for your kind treatment and any trouble you may take for me.”
“Pay me! What do I want with money?—there’s no shops here with ribbons, and calicoes, and muslins; and if there were, I’m not a fine madam. Money! Why I’ve no child to leave what I have to—no husband to spend it for me. I have bags and bags of dollars, young man, which my husband heaped up, and they are of as much use to me as they are now to him.”
“I am glad that you are so rich, mistress, and more glad that your money is so little cared for and so little wanted; but if you do not want money, I do very much want to get back to my friends, who think I am dead, and mourn for me.”
“Well, if they have mourned, their sorrow is over by this time, and therefore your staying here will not distress them more. I may as well tell you at once that you shall not go; so make up your mind to be contented, and you’ll fare none the worse for it.”
This was said in so decided a tone, that, bearing in mind what I had heard from the convict servant, I thought it advisable to push the question no further for the present, making up my mind that I would wait a short time, and then make my escape, if she still persisted in detaining me by force; but this I could not venture upon until I was in possession of fire-arms, and I could not obtain them while she had any suspicion. I therefore replied—“Well, since you are determined I shall not go, I have nothing more to say, except that I will wait your pleasure, and, in the mean time, let me make myself as useful as I can, for I don’t want to eat the bread of idleness.”
“You’re a very sensible young man,” replied she; “and now you shall have a shirt to put on, which will improve your appearance a great deal.”
She then went into the inner room, which I presumed was her bed-room, as there were but two rooms in the cabin. As she went out, I could not help wondering at her. On examination, I felt assured that she was more than six feet high, and her shoulders as broad and her arms as nervous as a man’s of that stature. Her chest was very expanded, but bosom she had none. In fact, she was a man in woman’s clothing, and I began to doubt her sex. Her features were not bad, had they been of smaller dimensions, but her nose was too large, although it was straight; her eyes were grand, but they were surmounted with such coarse eyebrows; her mouth was well shaped, and her teeth were good and regular, but it was the mouth of an ogress; her walk was commanding and firm; every action denoted energy and muscle; and certainly, from the conversation I have already made known, her mind was quite as masculine as her body—she was a splendid monster. In a minute she returned, bringing me a good check shirt and a pair of duck trousers, which I thankfully accepted.
“I’ve plenty more for those who please me,” said she, carelessly; “when you’ve put them on, come out to me, and I’ll show you the plantation.”
In a minute or two I joined her, and she led me round the tobacco-fields, then to the maize or Indian corn grounds, pointing out and explaining everything. She also showed me the cows, store pigs, and poultry. Wishing to please her, I asked many questions, and pretended to take an interest in all I saw. This pleased her much, and once or twice she smiled—but such a smile! After an hour’s ramble we returned, and found the two servants very busy, one husking maize, and the other in the shed where the tobacco was dried. I asked some questions of her about the tobacco—how many casks or bales she made a year? She replied that she made it in bales, and sold it by weight.
“It must be heavy carriage from here to James Town?” said I.
“Yes, indeed, if it went that way it never would arrive, I imagine,” replied she; “but I have a sloop in the river below, which carries it round.”
“When is the time it is harvested and fit to be carried round?” inquired I.
“It is now turning fast,” said she; “all that you see hanging in the drying sheds has been already drawn; in three or four weeks it will be housed, and then we begin to pack: in about two months from this the sloop will take it round.”
“But is it not expensive keeping a sloop on purpose, with men to have her in charge?” inquired I, to hear what she would say.
“The sloop lies at anchor, without a soul on board,” said she. “No one ever comes up this river. I believe Captain Smith, who made the settlement, did so once. There is another river, about twenty miles further down, which is occasionally frequented by buccaneers, I am told—indeed, I know it, for my husband had more to do with them than perhaps was good for his soul, but this little river is never visited.”
“Then your servants take her round?”
“Yes; I leave one in charge, and take two with me.”
“But you have but two.”
“Not till you came—one died; but now I have three,” and she smiled at me again.
If I had not been so afraid of affronting her, I certainly would have said to her, “Do anything, I beg, but smile.”
I said no more on that point. She called Jeykell, who was in the tobacco-shed, and desired him to kill a couple of chickens, and bring them in. We then entered the cabin, and she observed—“I don’t doubt but you are tired with so much fatigue; you look so; go and sleep on one of their beds; you shall have one for yourself by night.”
I was not sorry to do as she proposed, for I was tired out. I lay down, and I did not wake till she called me and told me that dinner was ready. I was quite ready for that also, and I sat down with her, but the two convict servants did not. She ate in proportion to her size, and that is saying enough. After dinner she left me, and went with her two men on her farming avocations, and I was for a long while cogitating on what had passed. I perceived that I was completely in her power, and that it was only by obtaining her good-will that I had any chance of getting away, and I made up my mind to act accordingly. I found a comfortable bed, of the husks of Indian corn, prepared for me at night, in an ante-room where the two servant-men slept. It was a luxury that I had not enjoyed for a long while. For several days I remained very quiet, and apparently very contented. My mistress gave me no hard work, chiefly sending me on messages or taking me out with her. She made the distinction between me and the convicts that I always took my meals with her and they did not. In short, I was treated as a friend and visitor more than anything else, and had I not been so anxious about going to England, I certainly had no reason to complain except of my detention, and this, it was evident, it was not in her power to prevent, as, until the sloop went away with the tobacco, she had no means of sending me away. One day, however, as I was walking past the tobacco-shed, I heard my name mentioned by the two convicts, and stopping I heard James say:
“Depend upon it, that’s what she’s after, Jeykell; and he is to be our master, whether he likes it or not.”
“Well, I shouldn’t wonder,” replied the other; “she does make pure love to him, that’s certain.”
“Very true; everything’s fierce with her—even love—and so he’ll find it if he don’t fancy her.”
“Yes, indeed:— well, I’d rather serve another ten years than she should fall in love with me.”
“And if I had my choice, whether to be her husband or to swing, I should take the cord in preference.”
“Well, I pity him from my heart; for he is a good youth and a fair-spoken and a handsome, too; and I’m sure that he has no idea of his unfortunate situation.”
“No idea, indeed,” said I to myself, as I walked away. “Merciful Heaven! Is it possible!” And when I thought over her conduct, and what had passed between us, I perceived not only that the convicts were right in their supposition, but that I had, by wishing to make myself agreeable to her, even assisted in bringing affairs to this crisis.
That very day she had said to me: “I was very young when I married, only fourteen, and I lived with my husband nine years. He is dead more than a year now.”
When she said that, which she did at dinner, while she was clawing the flesh off a wild turkey, there was something so ridiculous in that feminine confession, coming from such a masculine mouth, that I felt very much inclined to laugh, but I replied:
“You are a young widow, and ought to think of another husband.”
Again, when she said, “If ever I marry again, it shall not be a man who has been burnt on the hand. No, no, my husband shall be able to open both hands and show them.”
I replied, “You are right there. I would never disgrace myself by marrying a convict.”
When I thought of these and many other conversations which had passed between us, I had no doubt, in my own mind, but that the convicts were correct in their suppositions, and I was disgusted at my own blindness.
“At all events,” said I to myself, after a long cogitation, “if she wants to marry me, she must go to James Town for a parson, and if I once get there, I will contrive, as soon as extra constables are sworn in, to break off the match.” But, seriously, I was in an awkward plight. There was something in that woman that was awful, and I could imagine her revenge to be most deadly. I thought the old Indian squaw to be bad enough, but this new mistress was a thousand times worse. What a hard fate, I thought, was mine, that I should be thus forced to marry against my will, and be separated from her whom I adored. I was a long while turning over the matter in my mind, and at last I resolved that I would make no alteration in my behaviour, but behave to her as before, and that if the affair was precipitated by my mistress, that I would be off to the woods, and take my chance of wild beasts and wild Indians, rather than consent to her wishes. I then went into the cabin, where I found her alone.
“Alexander,” said she (she would know my Christian name, and called me by it), “they say widows court the men, and that they are privileged to do so,” (I turned pale, for I little thought that there was to be an explanation so soon;) “at all events, whether they are or not, I know that a woman in my position cannot well expect a young man in yours to venture without encouragement. Now, Alexander, I have long perceived your feelings and your wishes, and I have only to say that mine are such as yours,” (oh, I wish they were, thought I), “and therefore you have but to ask and to have.”
I was mute with fear and despair, and could not find a reply to make to her.
“Why do you not answer, Alexander? Do you think me too forward?”
“No,” stammered I; “you are very kind, but this is so unexpected—so unlooked for—so unhoped for—I am so overcome.”
Observe, Madam, how strangely the sexes were changed. I was the woman in this instance.
“I should like to consult my friends.”
“Consult your fiddlesticks,” replied she, quickly. “Who have you got to consult? I hope, Alexander,” said she, setting her broad teeth together, “that you are not trifling with me?”
“Indeed, I never should think of trifling with your mistress,” replied I. “I feel much obliged to you for showing such a preference for me.”
“I think, Alexander, that you ought; so now then, if you please, give me your answer,” replied she.
“Had I been prepared for your kindness, I would have done so at once, but I have many serious questions to put to myself, and, if you please, we will renew the subject to-morrow morning. I will then tell you candidly how I am situated; and if after that you do not withdraw your proposal, I shall be most happy to be yours as soon as we can go to James Town to be married.”
“If,” replied she, “you mean to insinuate, Alexander, that you have a wife in England, that is of no consequence in this settlement; for those who live here are free from all English marriages; and as for going to James Town, that is quite unnecessary. If the people in the settlement were to wait for a parson when they married, they would never be married at all. All that is necessary is, that we shall draw up an agreement of marriage on paper, sign it, and have it witnessed. However, as I perceive that you are flurried, I will wait till to-morrow morning for your decision.”
My mistress then rose from her stool, and went into her chamber, shutting to the door with more emphasis than was at all agreeable to my nerves. I walked out into the open air to recover myself, and to reflect upon what course I should take in this awkward and dangerous dilemma. Marrying was out of the question—but how to avoid it? It was almost like being stopped by a highwayman. He says, “Your money or your life.” My mistress’s demand was, “Marriage or your life.” There was but one hope, which was to escape that very night, and take my chance in the woods, and so I resolved to do.
I did not go in till dark; my mistress was in her own room; the two convicts were sitting by the fire. I took my seat by them, but did not speak, except in a whisper, telling them that their mistress was not well, and that we had better go to bed, and not talk. They stared at me at the idea of the mistress being ill; they had never known her to complain of anything since they resided with her; but the hint was sufficient. They went to bed, and so did I with my clothes on, watching the crevices of the door of her room to see if her lamp was out. In about half an hour the little thin beams through the chinks of her door disappeared, and then I knew that she had gone to bed. I watched two hours more before I ventured to stir. The convicts were both snoring loud, and effectually drowned any slight noise I might make in moving about. I went to the locker, secured all the cold meat for provision, took down one of the muskets and ammunition-belts, and, having put the latter over my shoulders, I then took the musket in my hand and crept softly to the door of the cabin. Here was the only difficulty; once out, but five yards off, and I was clear. I removed the heavy wooden bar, without noise, and had now only to draw the bolt. I put my finger to it, and was sliding it gently and successfully back, when my throat was seized, and I was hurled back on the floor of the cabin. I was so stunned by the violence of the fall, that for a short time I was insensible. When I recovered, I felt a great weight upon my chest, and opening my eyes found my mistress sitting upon me, and giving orders to the convicts, one of whom had already lighted the lamp.
“For mercy’s sake, get off my chest,” said I, in a faint voice.
“Yes, I will, but not yet,” replied my mistress. “Now, James, hand them to me.”
James handed some chains to his mistress, who, turning round as she sat on my body, made the manacle at the end of the chain fast round my ankle. This went with a snap-spring, which could not be opened without a key belonging to it. At last she rose off my body, and I could breathe free. She then called to the convicts, saying:
“Go both of you into the tobacco-shed, and wait there till I call you out. If I find you one foot nearer to us, I’ll flay you alive.”
The servants ran off as fast as they could. When they were gone, my mistress said:
“So you were about to escape, were you? You would avoid the chances of matrimony, and now you have other chances which you little dreamt of.”
“I thought it was the wisest thing that I could do,” replied I. “Since I must be plain, I am sacredly betrothed to another person, and I could not even for you break my faith. I meant to have told you so to-morrow morning, but I was afraid it would annoy you, and therefore I wished to go away without giving you any answer.”
“Well, Sir, I offered to be your wife, which would have made you my lord and master. You refuse it, and now I make you my slave. I give you your option; you shall either consent to be my husband, or you shall remain as you are, and toil hard; but any time that you think better of it, and are willing to embrace my offer, you will be free, and I will be as a wife in subjection.”
“So you say,” replied I; “but suppose I was to make you angry after I married you, you would do to me as you have done now. I may, perhaps, one day get free from this chain, but, once married to you, I am a slave for ever.”
“You may think otherwise before long,” replied she; “in the mean time, you may walk out and cool yourself.”
She then returned to her room, and I rose, having determined to walk out and cool myself, as she proposed; but when I was on my legs, I found that to the other end of the chain, which was very heavy and about two yards long, was riveted an iron ball of about thirty pounds weight, so that I could not walk without carrying this heavy weight in my hands, for it could not be dragged. I lifted up the iron ball, and went out of the house. I was no longer afraid of her. I was in too great a rage to fear anything. As I calmed, I considered my case, and found it to be hopeless; as I thought of Amy, and the many months of hope deferred, I wept bitterly; and I had no consolation, for the reader may recollect that I lost my Bible when I was sent on shore, naked almost, by the rascally captain of the Transcendant.
I had now been twenty months away from Liverpool, and I felt as if my chance of seeing her that I loved was indeed hopeless. I might remain chained in such a solitude for years, or I might expire under her barbarous treatment, for I fully knew what I had to expect. However, I was resolved. I prayed fervently for support and succour in my time of trouble, and became more composed. I remained out the whole of the night, and watched the rising sun. The two convicts came out to their work, and shrugged their shoulders as they passed me, but they dared not speak to me.
My mistress at last came out. She commenced with abuse, but I gave no answer. She tried soothing, but I was mute. At last she became frantic in her passion, hurled me away from her, and after being dreadfully beaten I fell to the ground. She put her foot upon my neck, and she stood there, looking like a fury. She loaded me with epithets, and then of a sudden went down on her knees by me, and begged my pardon, calling me her dear Alexander—her life—entreating me to accede to her wishes. Never was there such a tigress in love before, I really believe.
“Hear me,” replied I; “as long as I am chained, I never will give any answer upon the present subject, that I swear.”
She rose from my side, and walked away.
It is impossible, my dear Madam, for me to describe what I suffered from this woman for more than six weeks, during which she kept me chained in this way—at one time entreating me, the next moment kicking me, and throwing me down. I had no peace—my life became a burden to me, and I often entreated her, in mercy, to put an end to my sufferings. I also had my paroxysms of rage, and then would spurn her, spit at her, and do everything I could, and say all that I could imagine, to show my hatred and contempt. At other times I was sullen, and that always annoyed her. She would bear my reproaches patiently—bear any thing, so long as I would talk; but if I remained obstinately silent, then, in a short time, her fury would break forth. I pitied her, notwithstanding her ill-treatment, for the woman did love me (after her own fashion) most intensely.
It was on the seventh week of my confinement on the chain, that one morning very early, as I was lying in the tobacco-shed, for she had turned me out of the cabin, I perceived among the trees, which were about three hundred yards from the cabin, two Indians, in what is called their war-paint, which is a sign that they were on a hostile excursion. I remained perfectly quiet, and well concealed, that I might watch them. The convicts had more than once told me that the Indians would attack us, in consequence of an insult which my mistress had offered to their chief, with whom her husband had been so friendly; and when they stated what had passed, I agreed with them that they would not fail to resent the insult as soon as they could. I had therefore always been on the look-out, but had never seen any Indians before. My mistress, to whom I had, in our days of sweet converse, spoken about them, always laughed at the idea of their attacking her, and said that they might come if they liked. She had made every preparation for them, as she had loop-holes stuffed up with moss just below the roof of the cabin, from which you could fire down upon them till they were within four yards of the cabin, and other loop-holes, from which you might shoot them when close to; the window and door were impregnable, and, provided that we were once in the cabin, there was no doubt but that a serious, if not effectual, resistance might be made. That the Indians were reconnoitring the cabin was evident, and that they did not do so for nothing was equally certain. After a while, during which I made out six of them, they fell back in the wood, and disappeared. The dog at that moment came out to me, and it was probably the sight of the dog which made them retreat, as they feared that he would have given notice of their being so close to us. I waited till the convicts came out, and then I went into the cabin, and said:
“You drove me out of the house last night, and I come to return good for evil. As I lay in the tobacco-shed, I saw six Indians in the wood, to the east of the cabin, reconnoitring, and I have no doubt but that you will be attacked this night, so I give you notice.”
“And you hope that, by this fear of their attack, you will be set free, is it not?”
“It is perfectly indifferent to me whether I am or not. I have often asked you to put an end to my misery, and as you have not done it, I shall bless those Indians for the friendly act; a blow of a tomahawk will release me, if you will not.”
“Well, then, let them come with their tomahawks,” replied she, “and I will protect you from them, for no one shall release you but myself.”
“As you please,” replied I; “I have done my duty in telling you what I have seen, and you may take precautions or not; for myself I care nothing.”
So saying, I lifted up my ball of iron and went away out of the door. I remained out of doors the whole of the day, and therefore did not know whether my mistress took any precautions or not, but I told the two convicts what I had seen, and advised them not to go far from the cabin, as they would run great danger.
They inquired of me where I had seen the Indians and I pointed out the spot in the wood, after which they went away. I was certain that the attack would be on this night, as there was no moon till three hours before daybreak; and as it was very dark it would probably take place in the early part of the night. I had made up my mind what I would do, which was not in any way to defend the cabin while chained, but, when I was freed, I would fight to the last, so that I might be killed where I stood, and not be taken alive and tortured.
I did not go out from home all that day, and, to my surprise, I was not molested by my mistress. At dark she called the convicts, but they did not answer; she came out to look for them, and asked me whether I had seen them.
I told her that I had not seen them for two hours, and I had thought that they were in the house.
“Did you tell them about the Indians?”
“Yes, I did,” I replied, “and stated my opinion that they would attack us this night, and I advised them not to go far from the cabin, or they might be cut off.”
“Then the cowardly sneaks have run off to the woods, and left us to defend ourselves how we can.”
“I shall not defend myself,” replied I. “I shall stay here where I am. I wait for death, and will not avoid it.”
“Come into the house,” said she, abruptly.
“No,” replied I, “I will not.”
“You will not,” said she, and, catching up the chain and ball in one hand, with her other arm she caught me round the waist, and carried me into the house.
“Well,” replied I, “it is only deferring it a little longer; they will force their way in it at last, and I will die here.”
“Wait until they arrive,” replied my mistress. “But do you mean to say that you will not defend the house?”
“Certainly not, as long as I am chained as a slave,” replied I.
My mistress made no reply, but busied herself with barring the door and window. She then placed the table and stools so that she might stand upon them and fire out of the upper loop-holes; pulled the moss out of the loop-holes; took down the muskets—of which there were six—from their rests; examined the priming of those which were loaded, and loaded those which were not. She then got out a supply of powder and ball, which she put ready on the table, brought the axes out, that they might be at hand, examined the water-jars to ascertain whether the convicts had filled them as she had ordered, and then, when all was prepared for defence, she removed the lamp into the inner room, leaving the one we were in so dark, that the Indians could not, by looking through the chinks or loop-holes, discover where the occupants of the cabin might be. All these arrangements she made with the greatest coolness, and I could not help admiring her courage and self-possession.
“Is there any more to be done, Alexander?” said she, in a mild voice.
“Where is the dog?” replied I.
“Tied up in the tobacco-shed,” said she.
“Then there is no more to be done,” replied I; “the dog will give you notice of their coming, as they will first occupy the tobacco-shed as an advanced post.”
“Alexander, will you promise not to escape if I set you free?”
“Certainly not,” replied I. “You set me free for your own purposes, because you wish me to help to defend your property; and then, forsooth, when the Indians are beat off, you will chain me again.”
“No, no; that was not my feeling, as I sit here alive,” replied she; “but I was thinking that, if forced to retreat from the cabin, you would never be able to escape, and I never could save you; but they should hack me to pieces first.”
“Answer me one question,” said I. “In a time of peril like this, would you, as a conscientious person, think that you were justified in retaining in such fetters even a convict who had robbed you? And if you feel that you would not, on what grounds do you act in this way to a man whom you profess to love?—I leave it to your conscience.”
She remained silent for some time: when the dog barked, and she started up.
“I believe I am mad, or a fool,” said she, sweeping back her hair from her forehead.
She then took the key of the manacle out of her dress, and released me.
“Silence!” said I, putting my hand to her mouth, “this is no time to be heard speaking. Silence!” repeated I in a whisper, “I hear them, they are round the house.”
I stood upon one of the stools and looked through a loop-hole. It was very dark, but as the Indians stood on the hill, there was clear sky behind them as low down as their waists, and I could perceive their motions, as they appeared to be receiving orders from their chief; and they advanced to the door of the cabin with axes and tomahawks. My mistress had mounted on the table at the same time that I had got on the stool. We now got down again without speaking, and, each taking a musket, we kneeled down at the lower loop-holes which I have described. On second thoughts I mounted the stool, whispering to her, “Don’t fire till I do.”
The Indians came to the door and tapped, one asking in English to be let in. No reply was given, and they commenced their attack upon the door with their axes. As soon as this aggression took place, I took good aim at their chief, as I presumed him to be, who was now standing alone on the hill. I fired. He fell immediately.
As I leaped from the stool my mistress discharged her musket, and we both caught up others and returned to the loop-holes below. By this time the blows of the axes were incessant, and made the cabin-door tremble and the dust to fly down in showers from the roof; but the door was of double oak with iron braces, and not easily to be cut through; and the bars which held it were of great size and strength.
It was some time before we could get another shot at an Indian, but at last I succeeded, and as his comrades were taking the body away my mistress shot another. After this the blows of the axes ceased, and they evidently had retreated. I then went into the inner room and extinguished the lamp, that they might not be able to see us—for the lamp gave a faint light. We returned to the table, and loaded the muskets in the dark.
As I put my musket on the table, my mistress said, “Will they come again?”
“Yes;” replied I, “I think they will; but if you wish to talk, we had better retreat to the fire-place: there we shall be safe from any shot.”
We retreated to the fire-place, and sat down on the ashes; it just held us both, and my mistress took this opportunity of embracing me, saying—“Dear Alexander, if I had a thousand lives, I would sacrifice them for you.”
“We have but one,” replied I, “and that one I will devote for your defence; I can do no more.”
“Who did you fire at?” said she.
“The chief, as I believe, who was on the hill giving orders. He fell; and I think that he fell dead.”
“Then depend upon it they will retreat,” said she.
“I think not; they will be revenged, if they possibly can; and we must expect a hard fight for it.”
“Why, what can they do? They never can break through the door, and when daylight comes we can shoot them by dozens.”
“Depend upon it,” said I, “they will try to burn us out. The wind is high, which is all in their favour, and I suspect they are now gone to collect fire-wood.”
“And if they do fire the cabin, what shall we do? I never thought of that.”
“We must remain in it as long as we can, and then sally out and fight to the last; but everything depends on circumstances. Be guided by me, and I will save you if I can.”
“Be guided by you!”
“Yes! Recollect I am not in chains now, and that although you have the courage of a man, still you have not been so accustomed to warfare as I have been. I have long been accustomed to command, to plan, and to execute, in times of peril like this.”
“You have great strength and courage; I little thought what a lion I had chained up,” replied she. “Well, I love you all the better for it, and I will be guided by you, for I perceive already that you have the best head of the two. Hark! What is that?”
“It is what I said,” replied I; “they are laying fire-wood against the logs of the cabin on the windward side—(this was on the side opposite to the door). Now we must try if we cannot pick off some more of them,” said I, rising and taking a musket. “Bring the stools over to this side, for we must fire from the upper loop-holes.”
We remained at our posts for some time without seeing an Indian. They had gone back to the wood for more combustibles. At last we perceived them coming back with the wood. I should imagine there were at least twenty of them.
“Now, take good aim,” said I.
We both fired almost at the same moment, and three Indians fell.
“Get down, and give me another musket,” said I to my mistress.
She handed me one, and, taking another for herself, resumed her station. We fired several times; sometimes with and sometimes without success; for the Indians went away twice for fire-wood before they had collected what they considered sufficient. By this time it was piled up to the eaves of the cabin, and our loop-holes were shut up; we therefore went over to the other side, where the door was, to see if there were any Indians there, but could not see one. We had been on the look-out for about five minutes, when the crackling of the wood, and the smoke forcing itself though the crevices between the logs, told us that the fire had been applied, and the wind soon fanned it up so that the flame poured through every chink and loop-hole, and lighted up the cabin.
“We must retreat to the fire-place,” said I. “Come quickly, or we shall be shot.”
“Why so?” said she, as she did as I requested.
“They will peep through the loop-holes on the side of the cabin where the door is and see us plainly, until the cabin is filled with smoke, which it soon will be.”
“But tell me what we are to do now, for I feel if this smoke increases we shall not be able to speak to one another.”
This she said about five minutes after we had remained standing in the fire-place, with our heads up the chimney.
“Perhaps it will be as well,” replied I, “that I do speak so. This fierce wind drives the smoke to leeward in volumes, but the great burst of smoke will be when the roof is well on fire. It is now burning fiercely on the windward side, but we must wait till the lee-side has caught, and then the volume of smoke will be greater. The great point is to hit the precise time of opening the door, and escaping shrouded in a volume of smoke. If too soon, they will perceive us, and we shall be shot down; if too late, the roof will fall upon us, and we shall be smothered or burnt. We had better now, I think, leave this, and be all ready. Our best weapon, if we had to fight our way, will be an axe. Let us each take one; and, by now going near to the door, and putting our mouths to one of the loop-holes, we shall breathe freer, and unbar the door at the right time. Do you agree with me?”
“You are right,” said she; “you are a man, and I am a woman.”
We left the fire-place, and, having felt for and found the axes, we went near the door, and put our mouths to the loop-holes below; and the smoke passing above them enabled us to breathe freer. I looked out and perceived that, with the exception of about six yards to leeward of the cabin, there was a dense volume of smoke rolling along the ground for a long distance; and that if we could only once gain it without being perceived, we should probably be saved. I therefore unbarred the door, drew the bolt, and held it in my hand, all ready for a start. The cabin was now in flames in every part as well as the roof. I touched my mistress, and then took her hand in mine, watching at the loop-hole. At last, when the heat was almost unbearable, an eddy of the wind drove back the smoke close to the lee-side of the cabin, and all was dark. I jumped up, opened the door, and dragged my mistress after me; we walked out into the black mass completely hid from our enemies, and then running hand-in-hand as fast as we could to leeward in the centre of the smoke, we found ourselves at least one hundred yards from the cabin without the Indians having any idea that we were not still inside. As we retreated, the density of the smoke became less, and I then told her to run for her life, as the Indians would discover that the door of the cabin was open and that we had escaped—and so it proved. We were still a hundred yards from the wood when a yell was given which proved that they had discovered our escape and were in pursuit. We gained the wood; I turned round a moment to look behind me, and perceived at least forty or fifty Indians in full pursuit of us—the foremost about two hundred yards distant.
“Now we must run for it, mistress,” said I, “and we must no longer take hands. We shall have to thread the wood. Away! We have no time to lose.”
So saying, I snatched my hand from her and sprang forward; she following me as fast as she could, more fearful, evidently, of my making my escape from her than of her own escape from the Indians. As soon as I was a hundred yards in the wood, I turned short to the right, and fled with all my speed in that direction, because I hoped by this means to deceive the Indians, and it was easier to run where the wood was not so thick. My mistress followed me close; she would have hallooed to me, but she had not breath after the first half-mile. I found out that I was more fleet than she was. Whether encumbered with her clothes, or perhaps not so much used to exercise, I heard her panting after me. I could easily have left her, but my fear was that she would have called to me, and if she had, the Indians would have heard her, and have known the direction I had taken, and, when once on my trail, they would, as soon as daylight came, have followed me by it to any distance; I therefore slackened my speed so as just to enable my mistress to keep up with me at about ten yards’ distance; when we had run about three miles I felt certain that she could not proceed much further: speak she could not, and as I ran without once looking behind me, she could make no sign. I continued at a less rapid pace for about a mile further. I did this to enable her to keep up with me, and to recover my own breath as much as possible previous to a start. The voices of the Indians had long been out of hearing, and it was clear that they had not discovered the direction which we had taken. I knew, therefore, that they could not hear her now if she did cry out as loud as she could, and I gradually increased my speed, till I could no longer hear her panting behind me; I then went off at my full speed, and after a few minutes I heard her voice at some distance faintly calling out my name. “Yes,” thought I, “but I have not forgotten the ball and chain; and if you thought that you had let loose a lion while we were in the cabin, you shall find that you have loosed a deer in the woods.” I then stopped for a few moments to recover my breath; I did not, however, wait long; I was afraid that my mistress might recover her breath as well as myself, and I again set off as fast as I could. The idea of torture from the Indians, or again being kept confined by my mistress, gave me endurance which I thought myself incapable of. Before morning I calculated that I had run at least twenty miles, if not more.
With the perspiration running down me in streams, and hardly able to drag one leg before the other, I at last, just about daybreak, gave it up, when I threw myself on the ground, and dropped out of my hand my axe, which I had carried the whole way. I lay there for more than half an hour, tormented with thirst, but quite unable to move. At last I recovered; and, as I well knew that the Indians would divide in parties of three or four, and hunt every part of the woods, and by daylight probably discover my track, I rose and prepared to resume my toil, when, looking round me, I perceived that I was exactly on the spot where I had followed the deer, and had fallen in with the Jolly Rover, as he termed himself, who had pointed out the way to the plantations. I turned and saw the river below, and as he had told me that the Indians never came there, I resolved to go to the river, where, at least, I should find shell-fish and water. I did so; and in half an hour arrived at the skirts of the wood, and found that the river was about four hundred yards from me and clear of trees at the mouth for some distance. I went down to the river, which ran swiftly cut, and I drank till I was ready to burst. I then rose on my feet, and walked along its banks towards the mouth, thinking what I should do. To get to James Town appeared to me to be an impossibility, unless by water, and I was not likely to meet with any other vessel here but a pirate. Should I, then, go aboard of a pirate? It appeared to me to be my only resource, and that I should be happy if I could find one.
By this time I had arrived at the mouth of the river, and, looking out to seaward, I saw a schooner at anchor. She was about three miles off. That she was a pirate vessel, I presumed. Should I go on board of her or not? And if so, how was I to get on board? All her boats were up; and I surmised that she had just left the river with the intention of sailing as soon as there was any wind, for now it was calm. The river ran out swiftly, and I thought I should be able to swim the distance with the assistance I should obtain from the current, which swept down right for her, and she was riding to its strength.
I was demurring. I had been perhaps two hours on the beach, waiting to see if she might send a boat on shore, when, as I stood at the river-side, still hesitating, I happened to turn round and perceived three Indians coming down upon me as fast as they could. I hesitated no longer, but plunged into the stream, and was swept out two hundred yards before they arrived at the beach. I made for the schooner; and the current ran out so fast, that in half an hour I was close to her. I swam for her cable, which I clung to, and then shouted loudly. This induced some of the crew to look over the bows, and they handed me a bowling knot, into which I fixed myself, and was hauled on board.
I was dragged aft to give an account of myself, and I stated in few words that I had been pursued by the Indians, and swam off to save my life.
“Hav’n’t we met before?” said a rough voice.
I looked, and saw the Jolly Rover whom I had fallen in with on shore. I said, “Yes; I was escaping from the Indians when I met you, and you showed me the direction of the plantations.”
“All’s right,” said he. “It’s a true bill; and were those Indians after you that we saw on the beach just now?”
“Yes,” I replied; and then I stated how it was that they had attacked our cabin, and how we had escaped.
“That was well done, and so you swam off three miles. Fire and water won’t hurt you; that’s clear. You’re just the man for us. What thing-um-bob is this that you have hung round your neck?” said he, taking up the leathern bag with the diamond in it.
“That,” replied I—a sudden thought having struck me—“is my caul; I was born with a caul, and I have always worn it, as it saves a man from drowning.”
“No wonder that you swam three miles, then,” replied the man.
You must know, Madam, that some people are born with a membrane over the face, which is termed a caul, and there has been a vulgar error that such people can never be drowned, especially if they wear this caul about their person in after-life. Sailors are superstitious in many things, but particularly in this, and my caul was therefore as much-respected by them as it hung round my neck, as it was by the Indians when they thought it was what they call “magic” or “medicine.”
“Well,” said the Jolly Rover, “as you had so much fire, so much water, and so much running, I think you won’t be sorry to have a biscuit and glass of grog, and then turn in; to-morrow we will talk to you.”
I went down below, very glad to accept the offer, and as I was regaling myself, who should come up to me but two of the Portuguese who had been wrecked in the xebeque, and put on shore with me in the little boat by the captain of the Transcendant. I was very glad to see them. They told me that, after great hardship and suffering, they had arrived famished at the banks of this river, and had been taken on board by the pirates, and had remained with them ever since; that they were very anxious to get away, but never had an opportunity. I begged them not to say who I was, but merely that I was once a shipmate of theirs. They promised, and being very tired, I then lay down and fell asleep. I was so worn out, that I did not wake till the next morning, when I found that we were under all sail running down to the southward. I saw the Jolly Rover, as I had termed him, on deck, (his real or assumed name, I don’t know which, I found out to be Toplift,) sitting on a gun abaft. He called me to him. I said:
“Are you the captain?”
“Yes,” he replied, “for want of a better. I told you months ago what we were, so it’s no use repeating it. Do you intend to join us?”
“Then,” replied I, “I will be very candid with you. I have been driven, as it were, on board of your vessel, but certainly without knowing exactly what she was. Now, captain, I have to ask you one question:— Would you, if you could go on shore in England, with plenty of money at your command, and plenty of good friends,—would you be here?”
“No; certainly not,” replied he.
“Well; I am in that position. If once in England, I have money enough to live upon, and plenty of friends; I therefore naturally want to get back to England, and not to run the risk of my neck on board of this vessel.”
“That’s very true,” replied he, “but there are other considerations; my men won’t have a man on board who will not swear fidelity, and if you will not, I cannot protect you,—they will throw you overboard. We don’t carry passengers.”
“That’s very true, also; and I will swear fidelity so far as this, that you never shall be betrayed by me, and I never will appear as a witness against one of you; it were most ungrateful if I did. While I am on board, I will do any duty you please to put me to, for I cannot expect to eat my bread for nothing.”
“And suppose we come to action?”
“There’s the difficulty,” replied I; “against an English ship I never will fight.”
“But if we are opposed to any other nation, and there is a chance of our being overpowered?”
“Why, then, if you are overpowered, as I shall be flung along with the rest, I think I must do all I can to save my own life; but, overpowered or not, I will not fire a shot or draw a cutlass against my own countrymen.”
“Well, I cannot deny but that’s all very fair.”
“I think,” replied I, “it is as much as you can expect; especially as I never will share any prize-money.”
“Well; I will talk to the men, and hear what they say; but, now, answer me one question—Are you not a seaman?”
“I will answer the truth to everything; I am a seaman, and I have commanded a privateer. I have served many years in privateers, and have seen a great deal of hard fighting.”
“So I thought,” replied he; “and now answer me another question,—Was it not you that played that trick to that French privateer captain at Bordeaux?”
“Yes it was,” replied I; “but how came you to know that?”
“Because I was the mate of a merchant vessel that had been captured, and I saw you three or four times as you passed the vessel I was on board of; for, being put in quarantine, we were not sent to prison till the pratique was given. I thought that I knew you again.”
“I have no concealment to make.”
“No: but I will tell you candidly, my men, if they knew all this, would not allow you to leave the vessel. Indeed, you might be captain if you pleased, for I do not suit them. Our captain—for I was his officer—was killed about six months ago; and I really am not fit for the office—I am too tender-hearted.”
“Well; you don’t look so,” replied I, laughing.
“Can’t judge of outsides,” replied he; “but it’s a fact. They say that they will be all condemned if taken, from my not destroying the crews of the vessels we take; that they will be so many witnesses against them; and I cannot make up my mind to cold-blooded murder. I am bad enough; I rob on the high seas; I kill on the high seas—for we must kill when we fight; but I cannot commit deliberate murder either at sea or on shore, and so I tell them. If any one else could navigate the vessel, I should be superseded immediately.”
“I am glad to hear you say what you have, captain; it makes me less dissatisfied at finding myself here. Well; I have said all I can, and I must trust to you to manage with your ship’s company.”
“It will be a difficult job,” said he, musing.
“Tell them,” replied I, “that I was once a captain of a vessel like this (after all, there is not so much difference between a pirate and a privateer as you may think)—and that I will not be under the command of any one.”
“If they hear that, they will give you the command of this vessel.”
“I will refuse to take it; and give my reasons.”
“Well; I’ll tell them that: I leave you to settle with them how you can; but,” added he, in a low tone, “there are some desperate villains among them.”
“That I take for granted,” replied I; “so now I leave you to speak to them.”
Toplift did so. He told them that I was a pirate captain, who had lost his vessel and been thrown on shore, but I refused to join any ship except as captain of her; that I would not serve as first officer, and would obey no one. He told them that he knew me before, and he narrated the business at Bordeaux when I commanded a privateer, extolling me, as I afterwards found, beyond all measure.
The crew, having heard what he had to say, went forward, and, after consultation, came to Toplift and said that I must take the oath.
Toplift replied that he had desired me so to do, and that I had answered that I would not. “But,” said he, “you had better speak to him yourselves. Call all hands aft and hear what he has to say.”
This was done, and I was sent for.
“I have told them what you said, Sir. I don’t know your name.”
“I have no name,” replied I, proudly, “except ‘Captain,’—that’s my name.”
The fact is, Madam, I was determined to carry it out bravely; knowing that it is the best way to deal with such people as I now had in hand.
“Well, then, Captain, I have told the men that you will not take the oath.”
“Take the oath!” replied I, with scorn; “no; I administer the oath to others. I make them take it. I make them swear fidelity to me. Such has been my conduct, and I shall not depart from it.”
“Well, but, Captain Toplift, you don’t mean to say that he is to remain on board with us and not take the oath,” said a surly-looking ruffian. “In spite of you, he shall take the oath, Captain Toplift.”
“Captain Toplift,” said I, calmly, “do you allow one of your crew to use such language as this? Had I been captain of this ship, I would have blown his brains out as he stood. You don’t know how to deal with these rascals. I do.”
Captain Toplift, who appeared much pleased at being supported in this way by me—(strange that a single individual, whom they might have thrown overboard in a minute, should have gained such an ascendency, but so it was)—and who perceived that the men fell back, as if taken by surprise, then said, “Captain, you have taught me a good lesson, which I will take advantage of. Seize that fellow and put him in irons.”
“Hah!” cried the man, seeing that no man touched him; “who is to bell the cat! Hah!” and drew his cutlass.
“I will, then,” said I to Captain Toplift, “if you desire it;” and stepping forward I went up to the man, saying, “Come, come, my good fellow, this won’t do here; I am used to deal with such chaps as you, and I can manage worse than you, a good deal.”
I advanced till I was within the stroke of his cutlass before he was aware of it, and, seizing him by the waist, I threw him flat on his back and put my foot on his neck.
“Now,” cried I, in an authoritative voice, “put this man in irons immediately—refuse who dares. Here, you Sirs, lay hold of this fellow,” continued I, looking to the Portuguese; who accordingly came forward and led him away, assisted by others, who now joined them.
“Are there any more mutineers here?” inquired I; “if so let them step forward.”
No one stirred.
“My lads,” said I, “it is very true that I have refused to take the oath, for the oath is not given to those who command, but to those who obey; but at the same time I am not one to betray you. You know who I am; and is it likely?”
“No, no,” replied the men.
“Sir,” asked one of them, who had been most forward and insolent, “will you be our captain?—say but the word,—you are the sort of man we want.”
“You have a captain already,” replied I, “and in a few weeks I shall command a vessel of my own; I cannot, therefore, accept your offer; but while I am on board I will do all in my power to assist Captain Toplift in any way, and you can desire no more. And now, my men, as an old hand, I have but this advice to give you, which is—to return to your duty; for everything in a vessel of this description depends upon obedience; and to you, Captain Toplift, I have also advice to give, which is—to shoot the first man who behaves as that scoundrel did who is now in irons. Boatswain! Pipe down.”
I hardly knew whether this latter order would be obeyed by the boatswain, or, if obeyed by the boatswain, whether it would be obeyed by the men; but, to my great satisfaction, it was; and the men retired peaceably.
“Well, Captain Toplift,” said I, “I have done you no harm, and myself some good.”
“You have indeed,” replied he; “come down into the cabin.” When we were in the cabin he said, “You have unarmed and subdued the most mutinous rascal in the vessel, and you have strengthened my authority. They fully believe you are what you assert from your behaviour, and I feel, with you at my side, I shall get on better with these fellows than I have done. But now, to keep up the idea, you must, of course, mess in the cabin with me, and I can offer you clothes, not my own, but those of the former captain, which will suit your shape and make.”
I readily agreed with him; and, having equipped myself in the clothes he offered me, which were handsome, I soon afterwards went on deck with him, and received the greatest respect from the men as I passed them. A cot was slung for me in the cabin, and I lived altogether with Captain Toplift, who was a good-hearted, rough sort of a man, certainly wholly unfit for the command of a vessel manned by such a set of miscreants, and employed on such a service. He told me that he had been taken three years before by a pirate vessel, and finding that he could navigate, they had detained him by force, and that at last he had become accustomed to his position.
“We all must live,” said he, “and I had no other means of livelihood left me; but it’s sorely against my conscience, and that’s the truth. However, I am used to it now, and that reconciles you to anything, except murder in cold blood, and that I never will consent to.”
On my inquiring where they were about to cruise, he said, on the Spanish Main.
“But,” said I, “it is peace with the Spaniards just now.”
“I hardly knew,” said he, “it was peace. Not that peace makes any difference to us, for we take everything; but you refer to myself, I know, and I tell you frankly that I have preferred this cruise merely that we may not fall in with English vessels, which we are not likely to do there. I wish I was out of her with all my heart and soul.”
“No doubt of it, Captain Toplift, I think you are sincere. Suppose you put into one of the inlets of Jamaica, they won’t know where we are; let us take a boat on shore and leave her. I will provide for you, and you shall gain your living in an honest way.”
“God bless you, Sir,” said he; “I will try what I can do. We must talk the matter over, for they may suspect something, and then it would be all over with us.”
We continued to run down till we were in the latitude of the Virgin Isles, and then we altered her course for Jamaica. The first and second mates generally received information of Captain Toplift as to his movements and intentions, which they communicated to the crew. If the crew disapproved of them, they said so, and they were considered to have some voice in the matter.
Now, although no navigators, these men knew enough of a chart and a course to find that there must be some reason for its being altered as it was, instead of running down by the Spanish Main, and they inquired why the cruise was altered.
Captain Toplift replied that he had taken my advice, and that I had assured him that at the back of the island of Jamaica we should certainly fall in with some rich Spanish vessels, if we lay there quiet in some nook or another for a short time, as this was their time for coming up from the south to the Havannah, where they rendezvoused for a convoy.
This reply appeared very satisfactory to the crew, for they were all cheerful and obedient, and we ran down to Jamaica, and when we were close in shore we shortened sail and hove-to. We remained three or four days in the offing, that we might not cause any suspicion by our leaving too soon. Captain Toplift then told the mates that I proposed anchoring in some secret bay or inlet, as we were certain to see the Spanish ships if we could send any one ashore on the hills to look out for them. This was agreed to, and we made sail and ran along the coast, looking out for some convenient anchorage.
As we were so doing, a vessel hove in sight, and we immediately made all sail in chase. As she did not attempt to avoid us, we hauled off as she came near, to see what she might be. She then hoisted a yellow flag at her peak (for she was an hermaphrodite brig); this puzzled us not a little, and we edged down towards her, for she was very rakish-looking, except in her sails.
As we neared, finding, I suppose, that we did not answer her signals, and we were not the vessel she expected us to be, she suddenly altered her course before the wind, setting all the sail that she possibly could. We immediately crowded canvass in chase, and came up with her fast. As we ran, the mate and I looked at her through the glass, and I made her out to be the Transcendant, the captain of which had treated us so cruelly when we were in the boat, and who had robbed us of our money and clothes. I called the Portuguese and desired them to look at the vessel through the glass, and give me their opinion. They directly said that it was the vessel I supposed.
“Let us only catch the rascal,” said I, “and we will pay him in his own coin;” and I immediately gave directions for the better trimming of the sails, so anxious was I to come up with him.
The men of the schooner were much pleased at the anxiety I displayed to come up with the chase, and by the alacrity with which they obeyed me I saw how anxious they were that I should be their captain. In two hours we were within gun-shot, and sent one of our bow-chasers after him. Perceiving that it was useless to run, the fellow hove-to, and as we came alongside he was all ready with his boat to come on board. He did so, and at first I kept out of sight to hear what he would say. He was followed up the side by his amiable son. Captain Toplift received him on deck, and he looked around him, saying, “I believe I am right. I was afraid I had made more mistakes than one. I believe you are in the free trade?”
“Yes,” replied Toplift, “we are.”
“Yes, I thought so, captain, but I expected to meet another schooner which is very like to yours, and is also in the trade. I made my signal to her, as, when she has anything to get rid of, why I take it off her hands. Perhaps you may have something of the kind which is not exactly safe to show,—church-plate and the like. I pay ready money—that’s my plan.”
As it afterwards appeared, Madam, this scoundrel had been in the free trade, or pirating, himself for many years, but he had taken an opportunity of walking off with a large sum of money belonging to the pirate crew, and with this money he had purchased his property in Virginia and the brig which he now commanded. Although he did not follow up the free trade any more, he had made arrangements with a pirate captain whom he met at Port Royal to meet them at the back of the island and receive such articles as the pirate might want to turn into cash, by which he, of course, took care to secure large profits.
This he had done several times, and as he sold his cargo at Port Royal for dollars, he had always cash to pay for what the pirate wished to get rid of. But he had now run into the lion’s jaws, for not only were I and the Portuguese on board to denounce him as a robber, but, what was still more unfortunate for him, three of the pirate’s crew, whom had he swindled out of their property, were also on board of us, and recognised him immediately.
As Captain Toplift knew how I had been treated by him, he thought it was time he should be confronted with me, and to his question as to whether there was anything to dispose of, he replied to him, “You must put that question to the captain. There he is.”
The fellow turned to me; he looked at me, stared, and was mute, when his cub of a boy cried out, “As sure as a gun it’s he, father, and no mistake.”
“Oh, you imp of Satan, you know me, do you?” replied I. “Yes, it is he. Send all the men aft.”
The men came fast enough. They were only waiting till I had spoken to them to come and give information against him.
“Now, my lads,” said I, “this is a scoundrel who fell in with some of us when we were in distress, after we had lost our vessel. Instead of behaving as one seaman does to another, he robbed us of all we had, and turned us adrift naked to be killed by the Indians. Of all, I and the two Portuguese you took on board about four months back are the only three left: the others perished. The one who was with me was burnt to death by the Indians, and I narrowly escaped. I leave you to decide what this scoundrel merits.”
“But there is more against him, captain,” said the men, and then four of them stepped out and declared that he had run away with the money belonging to the crew of which they were a part, and that the sum he had stolen amounted to 25,000 dollars.
“What have you to say for yourself?” said I to him.
“That I’ve been a cursed fool to be caught as I have been.”
“What will they do, father?”
“Hang us, I suppose,” replied he.
“Captain Toplift,” said I, “I do not command this vessel, and I shall therefore leave you to decide upon the fate of this miscreant;” and, having said that, I was going below to the cabin, when the captain of the Transcendant’s son ran to me, and said, “I want to speak to you, Sir, when you are alone.”
“What are you after, Peleg?” cried his father.
“I’m going to save your life, father, if I can,” replied he.
“You’ll be clever if you do that, boy,” said the man, sneeringly.
I allowed the boy to follow me down into the cabin, and then asked him what he had to say.
“I have that to tell you which is of more value than the lives of a hundred boys like me.”
“Boys like you? Why I thought it was to save your father’s life that you came down, Sir?”
“Pooh!” said he, “let him hang; he was born for a halter. I am come to save my own life. I only said that to gammon him.”
“You’re a hopeful youth,” said I; “and pray what is that you can tell me that will save your own neck from the halter?”
“That which will save your own, most likely,” replied the boy, “and tit-for-tat’s all fair.”
“Well, let’s hear it then,” replied I.
“No, not unless you promise. I can swing, if need be, as well as father, but I’d rather not, ’cause I know where all his money is hidden.”
“I can’t make any promise,” replied I.
“Then I can’t tell,” replied he, “so I may e’en go on deck and tell father that I cannot manage it;” and as he said the latter part of this speech, the undaunted little villain actually laughed at the idea of gammoning his father, as he termed it.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it, is mostly true; but it is more certain that if you train a child up in the way that he should not go, he will be a more true disciple. Could there be a more decided proof of the above than the behaviour of this young villain? But his father had made him so, and thus was he rewarded.
“Stop,” said I, for I had reflected whether, after all, there were any grounds for hanging the boy, and come to a conclusion that a jury would have probably acquitted him. “Stop,” said I; “you say that what you can tell is of the greatest consequence.”
“And becomes of more consequence every minute that passes,” replied he. “I will tell you everything, and let you into father’s secrets. I peach upon father altogether.”
“Well, then,” replied I, “if what you have to disclose proves important, I will do all I can to save your life, and I have no doubt that I shall be able so to do.”
“No more have I,” replied he, “or I would not have come to you. Now then, father came to the back of the island to do a little business with a pirate schooner, as he said just now; and he has very often done it before, as he said just now; but father did not tell you all. When we were in Port Royal, father went to the captain of a king’s vessel who is there, having been sent to put down the pirates if possible, and he offered this captain of the king’s ship, for a certain sum, to put our friends that we exchange with into his hands.”
“What, betray his friend the pirate?”
“Yes, father agreed that he would come round as he has done this day, and would contrive to chaffer and bargain with him and keep him so late in the bay that the king’s ship should come upon him all of a sudden and take him, and this was father’s intention, only you have pinned him. The king’s ship will be round that point in two hours or thereabouts, so if you are found here you will be taken and handed as sure as I ain’t hanged yet. Now ain’t this important news, and worth all I asked for it?”
“It certainly is, if it is true, boy.”
“Oh, I’ll prove it, for I always goes with father, and he trusts me with everything. I saw the paper signed. The king’s ship is called the Vestal, and the captain who signed the paper signed it Philip Musgrave.”
“Indeed,” said I, turning away, for I did not wish the boy to perceive my emotion at this announcement. I recovered myself as soon as I could, and said to him, “Boy, I will keep my promise. Do you stay below, and I will go on deck and plead for your life.”
“Mayn’t I go on deck for a bit?” said he.
“What to wish your father good-bye? No, no, you had better spare yourself and him that painful meeting.”
“No, I don’t want to wish him good-bye,—I’ll wait till it’s over, only I never did see a man hanged, and I have a curiosity to have just a peep.”
“Out, you little monster,” cried I, running up on deck, for the information I had received was too important not to be immediately taken advantage of.
“Well, captain, has the boy saved his father’s life?”
“No,” replied I, in a loud voice.
“Then, up he goes,” said the men, for the halter had been round his neck and run out to the yard-arm for some time, and the men had manned the rope, only awaiting my return on deck. In a second, the captain of the Transcendant was swinging in the air, and certainly if ever a scoundrel merited his fate it was that man. Shortly afterwards I turned round, and there was the young hopeful looking at his father’s body swinging to and fro with the motion of the vessel.
I looked in vain for a tear in his eye; there was not a symptom of emotion. Seeing me look sternly at him, he hastened down below again.
“My lads,” said I to the men, who were all on deck, “I have received intelligence of that importance that I recommend that we should cut that vessel adrift, and make sail without a moment’s loss of time.”
“What, not plunder?” cried the men, looking at the Transcendant.
“No, not think of it, if you are wise.”
At this reply all of the men exclaimed that “that would not do”—“that plunder they would”—that “I was not the captain of the vessel,”—and many more expressions, showing how soon a man may lose popularity on board of a pirate vessel.
“I gave my opinion, my men, and if you will hear why I said so—”
“No, no, out boats,” cried they all, and simultaneously ran to lower down the boats, for it was now calm, that they might tow the schooner alongside of the Transcendant.
“You might as well talk to the wind as talk to them when there is plunder to be obtained,” said Toplift to me in a low tone.
“Come down with me,” said I, “and I will tell you what I have heard.”
“Ain’t they going to plunder the brig?” said Master Peleg, when we came down; “I know where father’s dollars are,” and up he ran on deck.
I made a short remark upon the depravity of the boy, and then informed Captain Toplift of what he had told me.
“If you had told them, they would not have paid attention to you. The boat’s crew who came with the captain have told them that there is money on board, and all authority is now at an end.”
“Well,” replied I, “I believe that the boy has told the truth.”
“And what do you mean to do?”
“Remain below quietly, if I am allowed,” replied I.
“But I cannot,” said he; “they would throw me overboard.”
“Make as bad a fight of it as you can,” replied I.
“That I will,” said Captain Toplift, “and with so superior a force opposed, we cannot stand long. But I must tell you where you must be.”
“Where?” replied I.
“At the entrance of the magazine, for as sure as we stand here they will blow up the vessel rather than be taken. Not all of them, but two or three I know are determined so to do, and resolute enough to do it. My pistols are there. You have only to open this door, and you are in the magazine passage. See,” said he, opening the door, “there is the scuttle where they hand the powder up.”
“I will be on the watch, depend upon it; and, Captain Toplift, if the schooner is taken, and I am alive, you may have no fear for yourself.”
“Now let us go on deck again.”
“I will follow you,” replied I.
“I am alone at last, thank Heaven!” said I to myself. “What a position am I in, and how much will be in suspense before twenty-four hours are over! My own brother here, not ten miles perhaps from me, commanding the vessel which will attack this on which I am on board. That they will take us I have no doubt; but what risk do I run—of death by shot, or by their blowing up the vessel in spite of me, or of no quarter being given. Well, I wish it were decided. At all events, I am long supposed dead, and I shall not be recognised among the heaps of the bodies.”
I then went to the locker and took out my duck frock and trousers, determining that I would, if I were killed, be killed in those clothes, and be thrown overboard as a common seaman. I then went on deck, for I heard the grating of the sides of the two vessels, and knew that they were in contact.
All was uproar and confusion on board of the Transcendant, but there was nobody on board the schooner except Toplift and myself. I cannot say that I never saw such a scene, for I had seen quite as bad on board of a privateer. The common seamen, as well as the soldiers, when let loose to plunder, are like maniacs. In half an hour they had broken open everything, cut the crew to pieces, and found out the hoard of dollars, which was shown them by young Peleg, who tried for his share, but for so doing received a chop with a cutlass, which cut off his right ear, and wounded him severely on the shoulder; but his right arm was not disabled, and while the man that out him down was bending over a heap of dollars, which took both hands to lift them, the boy ran his knife deep into the man’s side, who fell mortally wounded. The rush for the dollars thus at the mercy of the rest was so great, that Peleg was not minded, and he crept away and came on board the schooner. We saw that he was bleeding profusely, but we asked no questions, and he went down the ladder forward.
“What has that young villain been after?” said Toplift.
“I presume he has been quarrelling for plunder, and considered that he had a greater right to his father’s money than anybody else.”
Among other plunder the people had not forgotten to look for liquor, and an hour had not passed before three-fourths of the men were more or less intoxicated. They had found plenty of good clothes, and were strutting about with gold-laced waistcoats and embroidered coats over their dirty frocks. The uproar increased every minute, when Toplift, who had been looking out with the glass, exclaimed, “There she is, by all that’s sacred!”
I caught the glass out of his hand, and found it was the king’s ship. She was a large flush vessel, apparently of eighteen or twenty guns, just opening from the point, and not seven miles from us. We were still becalmed, and she was bringing the wind down with her, so that to escape appeared impossible.
“Now, what shall we do?” said Captain Toplift; “shall we allow her to come down upon us and say nothing to the men, or shall we point out the danger and persuade them to come on board and prepare?”
“You must do as you please,” replied I, “I am indifferent which. It will be dark in another hour, and she will not be down by that time. I would rather avoid fighting, and get away from the schooner quietly if I could, but that I fear is impossible now.”
“Well, I must go on board of the brig and let them know, for if they find it out themselves they will throw us overboard.”
Captain Toplift then went on board of the brig, and railing to the men who were still sober, told them that there was a king’s ship coming down upon them not seven miles off. This had the effect of putting an end to the confusion and noise of a great portion of the men, who hastened on board of the schooner, but others, who were intoxicated, were with difficulty persuaded to return.
At last they were all got on board, and the schooner, clear from the brig, was made ready for action; but Toplift was obliged to make some alteration in the stationing of the men, as those who were to hand up the powder were all of them tipsy. By the time that the schooner was ready, and the breeze had come down to her, the corvette was not more than three miles from us; but it was quite dark, for there is no twilight in those parts. We consulted what course we should take to avoid her, if possible, and agreed that we would stand in shore and pass her if we possibly could. We knew that, if seen, we were then certain to be obliged to fight; but if not seen, we might escape.
We then shifted the helm and bore up across her bows, but we had not steered in this direction more than a quarter of an hour, when the Transcendant was perceived to be on fire, having been fired by the drunken men before they left her, and soon afterwards she burst out into flames that threw a strong light to a great distance, discovering the corvette to us at two miles’ distance, and of course exposing us to the corvette, who immediately altered her course for us. We had therefore only to fight, and the crew, being most of them in liquor, declared that they would fight till the schooner sunk under them. In a quarter of an hour, the corvette being close to us, and standing stem on, we opened our fire, raking her masts and yards, and then I went down below. I had changed my clothes for the duck trousers and shirt which I had swum on board in, and I now remained quietly in the cabin. A few minutes afterwards the corvette opened her fire, and the shot did great execution. The cries of the wounded and the shouts of the tipsy men were mingled together, but the crew of the schooner fired with great rapidity, and sustained the unequal conflict most gallantly.
After a time some men darted down into the cabin. I was then at the door which led to the magazine passage, and busied myself handing up the powder, as it secured me from observation, and it was supposed that I was one of the crew sent down for that duty.
The men roared out, “Where is the captain? We want him to fight the ship. Toplift is an old fool, and don’t know what he is about.”
I made no reply, but with my back towards them continued to hand up the powder, and, having changed my dress, they did not recognise me, so they rushed upon deck again.
The corvette was now alongside of the schooner, pouring in her broadsides with fatal execution, the shot passing in every direction through her, so that there was as much danger below as on deck, and it was evident that the schooner could not oppose them much longer. Still they continued to fire with great resolution, being now sobered into more steadiness than at first. But by this time more than half the men were killed and wounded, and our guns were encumbered with the wreck and bodies. I heard them, at the very time that a crashing broadside was poured in by the corvette, cry out, “Avast] firing for a moment and clear the decks.”
They did so, and, having thrown the bodies overboard and cut away the spars and rigging which had fallen, so as to enable them to work their guns, during which time three broadsides were poured in, they remanned their guns, and fought with as much spirit as before. I could not help admiring the courage of the scoundrels, for nothing could exceed it; but resistance was useless, further than they preferred dying at their guns to being hanged on the gibbet.
But the shouts of the pirates and the reports of the guns gradually decreased. The men were swept away by the enemy’s fire, and the guns were one by one disabled. The schooner’s sides were torn out, and the water poured in so fast that it was rising to the magazine. I heard a cry of boarders, and the striking of the two vessels together, and then there was a rush down below, when a man came aft to the magazine passage. It was the fellow whom I had struck down on the quarter-deck and had put into irons.
“Come along,” said he, to the others; “we’ll send the corvette and ourselves all to the devil together. Out of the way there.”
“Stand back,” said I.
“Stand back,” replied he, pointing his pistol down to the magazine.
I threw up his arm, and the pistol went off, striking the beams above.
“Blast you,” cried he, “whoever you are; but I’ve another,” and he attempted to draw it out of his belt; but before he could effect it I blew out his brains with the pistol which I had ready cocked in my hand.
His companions started back, and I pointed my second pistol at them, saying, “The man who comes forward this way dies.”
As I said this the crew of the corvette, who had cleared the decks, charged down below, and the pirates ran away and secreted themselves. Perceiving them coming forward, I said to them, “Put a guard over the magazine; they have attempted to blow up the vessel already.”
“Who are you?” said an officer.
“A prisoner,” replied I.
“Well, then, lead him on deck, and stay here, two of you; shut down the magazine scuttle and keep guard.”
“Thank Heaven,” thought I, “that this affair is over,” as a seaman led me by the collar on deck, and handed me to others, who took me on board of the corvette.
We were all put down below that remained out of the schooner’s crew, about eighteen or nineteen, not more, and I was glad to find Captain Toplift, although badly wounded with a splinter, was among the number. We remained there huddled together with a guard of ten men over us for more than an hour, when we heard, from the conversation on deck, that the schooner had sunk. After that the guns of the corvette were secured, and the men had an allowance of liquor served out to them, the watch was called, and all was quiet during the remainder of the night. For some time I was in a state of excitement from the events of the last twenty-four hours crowding so rapidly, but by degrees I became calm. I asked one of the guard who was the captain of the corvette.
“What’s that to you, you gallows-bird?” replied he. “A civil question might receive a civil reply,” answered I.
“So it might with any one else; but if you don’t want the hilt of my cutlass down your throat, you will hold your tongue.”
But I did not require to repeat the question, as I heard one of the officers on deck say, “It’s Captain Musgrave’s orders.”
This satisfied me, and I lay down with the rest of the prisoners, waiting for daybreak, when I trusted my troubles would soon be over. They were all sound asleep. Strange that men who knew that they would be hanged in a few days, if not the next morning, should sleep so sound—but so it was—while I, who had every reason to believe that my sufferings were over, could not sleep one wink. I was, however, fully satisfied with my own castle-buildings during the night, and more satisfied when it was again broad daylight. After the men had had their breakfast, an order came down for all the prisoners to be brought on deck. We were led up under guard, and made to stand all in a row. I looked round for my brother, but he was not on deck. It was the first-lieutenant who was there, with several other officers, and the clerk, with pen and ink, to take down the names of the prisoners.
“Who was the captain of this vessel?” said the first-lieutenant.
“I was, Sir,” replied Toplift; “but much against my will.”
“Oh, of course; every man was on board of her against his will. What is your name? Put him down, Mr. Pearson. Any other officers alive?”
“No, Sir,” replied Toplift.
The name of every man was then asked and put down, and it so happened that I was the last; for, anxious to see my brother, I had walked up the foremost, and they had commenced their interrogation at the other end of the line.
“What is your name?”
“I do not belong to the schooner,” replied I.
“Of course not: you dropped on board her from the clouds.”
“No, Sir, I did not; I swam on board of her to save my life.”
“Then you went out of the frying-pan into the fire, I reckon, my good fellow, for your life is forfeited now.”
“I rather think not, Sir,” replied I. “On the contrary, I feel it is quite safe.”
“Give us none of your jaw, my good fellow, but give us your name.”
“Certainly, Sir, if you require it. My name is Alexander Musgrave, Sir,” replied I; “I am the elder brother of your captain, Philip Musgrave, and I will thank you to go into his cabin and inform him that I am here.”
The first-lieutenant and officers started back in astonishment, and so did Captain Toplift and the pirates. The first-lieutenant hardly knew whether to consider it as a pretence on my part or not, and was undecided how to act, when Captain Toplift said, “I do not know whether the gentleman is as he says, but this is certain, and all the men can prove it as well as myself, that he did swim on board, as he said, to escape from the Indians, and that he has never joined the crew. They offered to make him captain in my stead, and he positively refused it.”
“Yes,” said all the pirates; “that’s true enough.”
“Well, Sir,” replied the first-lieutenant, “I will certainly carry your message.”
“To make all certain,” replied I, “I will write my name on a slip of paper for you to take in to the captain. He knows my signature.”
- The chapter headings grow successively shorter and less detailed as the book progresses; this sentences covers everything from the start of the chapter to the end of the book!
- This, being near Jamestown, would be anywhere up or down the w:Chesapeake Bay
- That is, news
- Classic stereotypical Native interjection
- Given how much Marryat is blatantly making this up, that may or may not be the actuall truth
- Unfortunately he never goes into detail as to which tribe or nation they were
- How did they miss everyone else crowding around him?
- Evidently, inspite of all his burning and beating, he still retained his vocal cords
- Nice display of bias here; See, for example, w:Jane Barker's w:Exilius for the opposite example
- Is this in English, or the local language?
- Interesting, given the name of the pirate flag is the w:Jolly Roger
- Similar instructions are given in courtrooms to this day, at least in Common Law countries
- Messages to who? It's already stated they're in the middle of nowhere, and if he could send a message, why couldn't he get a message of his own out?
- That's also the fist time ANYONE has called him by it in the book!
- His knee-would has evidently healed well enough
- That is, life after their birth, as opposed to w:afterlife
- That is, pipe to "dismissed"
- Historically, pirate crews were almost on the same footing with the captain, many times they had the understood authority to override him by majority
- That is, "give him a taste of his own medicine"
- "Dollar" refers to a certain value coin in British English slang. It can also refer to a w:Spanish dollar or "piece of eight" (Probably more likely, since this is a piratey context. The conversion to pounds is unknown.
- Thta is, wikt:impeach, or, as such meant in the 1700s, "turn State's evidence"
- That is, he won't be dishonored as having supposedly fought abouve a pirate ship aginst the King's force and his brother